WASHINGTON (Jan. 8)
Contradictory versions of the contents of a reported Soviet peace plan for the Middle East have appeared here in the past two days. The secret plan was said to have been presented a week ago to the Western powers which reportedly are still studying it.
Information from one source today indicated the Soviets have proposed a timetable, based on the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution, by which Israel would withdraw to its pre-June, 1967 borders in return for reciprocal commitments from the Arabs, including termination of their state of war with Israel. But the Israeli withdrawal would come first and while Israel would be guaranteed freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba, the Suez Canal navigation issue would be left to future arrangement. According to this information, final frontiers would be drawn along the lines of the pre-June, 1967 borders, to be guaranteed by the Big Powers and policed by an international force, presumably under the auspices of the Security Council.
This version of the Soviet proposal was at variance on several key points with a version reported in the Washington Post yesterday by its United Nations correspondent, Robert H. Estabrook. Mr. Estabrook, who attributed his information to a Soviet diplomat, said the Russian proposal eschewed the timetable concept previously sought by Egypt in favor of a “package deal.” The latter called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, concurrently with arrangements for opening the Suez Canal to navigation by Israeli shipping and the implementation of other aspects of the Nov. 22 resolution. According to Mr. Estabrook, the Soviet proposal envisaged the establishment of an international peace-keeping force on both sides of the Arab-Israeli border and certain border adjustments. It also purportedly proposed that in lieu of a peace treaty between the Arabs and Israel, both sides register “undertakings” with the Security Council under some sort of international guarantee.
A Soviet press release issued at the UN today called Mr. Estabrook’s report “absolutely unfounded” and denied that any Russian diplomat had made a statement to him. Mr. Estabrook said in a dispatch from the UN today that a Soviet diplomat actually sought him out to make the statement and that another Soviet source was known to have made a similar statement to a non-U.S. official at the UN.
Neither version of the Soviet proposal contained any reference to the future status of Jerusalem. But a report from another source said today that the Soviets were pressing for the internationalization of East Jerusalem. Both the Estabrook version and the later report said the U.S. was skeptical of the practicability of the Soviet plan and was totally against any kind of imposed solution in the Middle East.
MOSCOW RADIO SEES NEW MIDDLE EAST WAR LIKELY, BLAMES ISRAEL FOR TENSIONS
In related developments, Moscow Radio reaffirmed support for the Arabs in a broadcast to the Chinese that termed the Middle East explosive, blaming Israel for the tensions. Russia said a new war was likely to occur.
The Soviet Navy has quietly moved units into the area of the Red Sea, in a position to menace Sharm el-Sheikh at the entrance to Aqaba Gulf and the southern approaches to the Suez Canal and Sinai Peninsula. This was confirmed by U.S. officials as a dispatch from Moscow announced a “goodwill” naval visit to the port of the Hodeidah, Yemen. The Moscow report said the powerful Soviet cruiser. Admiral Fokin, and another ship, would visit Yemen beginning Thursday. The Admiral Fokin is equipped to fire guided missiles.
Lebanon’s President Charles Helou accepted the resignation of Premier Abdullah Yafi and his four-man Cabinet, and began trying to form a new Government. The Yafi Government resigned partly as a result of student agitation for a harder line against Israel following the Beirut raid. Defense and Foreign Minister Hussein Oweini was under attack for the defense breakdown that permitted the raid.
The Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram attacked 16 U.S. Senators who issued a bi-partisan statement urging U.S. support for Israel in the Middle East conflict. Writer Clovis Maksoud accused the eight Democrats and eight Republicans of trying to create an atmosphere that would facilitate Israeli domination of U.S. policy during the Nixon administration.