LONDON (Dec. 22)
Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, making his first visit to Egypt since the 1967 Six-Day War, was scheduled to confer today with President Nasser in a visit which touched off speculation that a new Soviet initiative might be underway to ease the broiling Middle East situation and perhaps bring about a political settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict.
The rumors were lent some credence by the fact that the Soviet delegation included Gromyko’s deputy, Vladimir Semyonov, who conferred three weeks ago in a secret meeting with Yosef Tekoah, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. The London Sunday Observer asserted that Semyonov put “peace proposals to Israel in a secret New York meeting about three weeks ago.” The version given today by A1 Ahram, the Cairo newspaper which reflects Nasser’s views closely, was that all efforts for Middle East peace so far had failed and that the Soviets and the Egyptians were meeting to “see to it that Israel does not get away with it.”
(The New York Times reported yesterday from Cairo that Israeli press reports indicated that Semyonov had promised the Soviet Union’s backing for an overall settlement if Israel agreed to troop withdrawals from occupied Arab territory. The Times also reported that well-places sources in Cairo had asserted that Nasser planned to discuss with the visiting Soviet diplomats a possible diplomatic initiative by the Soviet Union and other major powers. Other Cairo sources said, according to the Times, that the Gromyko visit stemmed from a meeting between Nasser and Sergei Vinogradov, the Soviet Ambassador to Egypt last Thursday. The dispatch said that the talk raised questions so important as to warrant Gromyko’s hurried trip to Cairo.)
During the weekend, however, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was informed at the United Nations that there had been no follow-up to the Tekoah-Semyonov talk and that there had been no indication after the meeting that the Soviets had modified their position in any way or would be any more amenable to the Israeli viewpoint.
(Italian Foreign Minister Pietro Nenni expressed the belief in Rome today that the Russians were seeking to put brakes on Nasser and that they did not want him to use the arms with which he was recently re-equipped in a new adventure against Israel. Quoted in an interview with the leading daily, Stampa, Mr. Nenno said the Kremlin would continue this policy as long as the United States counselled Israel to follow a policy of moderation.)