Eban Confers with British Leaders, Does Not See Middle East on Brink of War

Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban said here last weekend that the Middle East cease-fire agreements were not on the brink of collapse nor was the Middle East on the verge of a new explosion. He spoke to newsmen following an hour-long meeting with Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart and a half-hour courtesy call paid to Prime Minister Harold Wilson at the latter’s residence. Mr. Eban arrived Thursday to address the opening of the Joint Palestine Appeal’s 1969 campaign.

He said he would meet again in January with Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring, the United Nations special peace envoy to the Middle East. Mr. Eban said that Israel has been prepared to join in new peace efforts in the form of a conference among the parties to the Middle East conflict with Dr. Jarring. He said, however, that this proposal and other peace efforts had been rebuffed by Egypt. He repeated Israel’s position that withdrawal from occupied Arab territories depends on a firm agreement for peace and settlement of “all relevant matters” including secure boundaries agreed to by both sides. Prime Minister Wilson and Foreign Secretary Stewart were reported to have urged both Israel and the Arabs to issue “clear declarations” accepting the UN Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution “in the clear knowledge” that it implied Israeli withdrawal and Arab approval of a lasting and secure peace. Mr. Eban told newsmen that while his Government was amenable to phased peace negotiations, it rejected any phased troop withdrawal to parallel stage-by-stage negotiations. He also reiterated Israel’s insistence that any peace arrangement in the Middle East must be agreed to by all parties and cannot be “grafted” by the Big Powers. “The Middle East is not a colonial protectorate but an area inhabited by sovereign states and a peace settlement can come about only by negotiation and agreement between these states,” Mr. Eban said.

He expressed satisfaction with his meeting last week with William W. Scranton, President-elect Nixon’s fact-finding envoy to the Middle East. He said he found that Mr. Scranton had an open mind on the Middle East and had come to listen, not to present any ideas. He said that on the basis of his talks with the envoy he was certain there would be no changes in the American policy on the Middle East enunciated by President Johnson in his five-point program of June, 1967 and reinforced by statements by Mr. Nixon during the election campaign.

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