PARIS (Dec. 11)
A spokesman for the de Gaulle Government announced today that France has called for a Four Power conference on the Middle East and wants to start as soon as possible after the Nixon Administration takes office next month, to discuss implementation of the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 Middle East resolution. The French move was announced officially by Minister of Information Joel le Theule following the weekly Cabinet meeting under the chairmanship of President de Gaulle.
The announcement capped a week of Intense French diplomatic activity in connection with the Middle East crisis. Gen. de Gaulle met twice with Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin and they are known to have discussed the Middle East situation in detail. He conferred at the Ely see Palace Tuesday with United States Ambassador Sargent Shriver who had just returned from a brief visit to Washington where he met with President Johnson and President-elect Nixon. They were known to have discussed the Middle East. Mr. Shriver had been mentioned as the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
French diplomacy has also been active on lower levels urging the U.S., Russia and Great Britain to agree to a Big Four conference on the Middle East and to begin preparations for it immediately. According to French political circles, the response “has been…the most promising.” It was believed here that Britain favored such a conference and that Russia had agreed tentatively. The only hold-out was Washington.
According to French circles there has been a “marked change” in the American attitude which they said “is drawing much closer to France’s own views on the subject.” Israeli circles here were concerned by the French initiative for a conference particularly because they were uncertain about what Middle East policy will be followed by the Nixon Administration.
M. le Theule said that Foreign Minister Michel Debre reviewed the Middle East situation at today’s Cabinet meeting and came to the conclusion that it was “most serious” and had deteriorated further in recent weeks. M. Debre said that the mission of United Nations peace envoy Gunnar V. Jarring “does not seem to be succeeding” and noted that “both the American and Russian governments are taking an ever closer interest in Middle East affairs.” M. le Theule quoted M. Debre as saying that “in both camps (Arab and Israeli) the most extremist tendencies seem to have the upper hand.” In view of the situation, according to Mr. le Theule, the French Government believed that the Middle East conflict can be solved “only through international action” and “as a first step in this direction, the Government calls for a Four Power conference.”