PARIS (Jan. 16)
French Government circles expressed the hope that Big Four “consultations” would be held within the next week to 10 days to discuss Soviet peace proposals for the Middle East. They stressed the term “consultations” rather than “conference” and indicated that France wanted the talks held by permanent representatives of the Big Four members of the United Nations Security Council. Diplomatic quarters here and abroad however indicated that a hiatus has developed in the Soviet Middle East peace offensive which was expected to delay considerably UN mediator Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring’s resumption of his peace-seeking mission in the Middle East. They said that no major development can be anticipated until the Nixon Administration takes office next Monday and has a chance to determine its Middle East policy. The United States and Britain were seeking Soviet clarification of the Kremlin’s Middle East plan. Consultations among the Western powers over the past two weeks were said to have raised a number of vital questions about the practicability of the Soviet plan.
The French magazine, Jeune Afrique, published the purported contents of the Soviet plan presented to Western powers Dec. 30. It coincided with a version published by the Beirut newspaper Al Anwar last week that well-informed circles said was fairly accurate. According to Jeune Afrique, Moscow proposed a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula over a period of three months during which certain other provisions of the peace proposal would take effect. During the first month, Israeli forces would withdraw to a point 40 kilometers behind the Suez Canal. Immediately afterwards, the two sides would announce the end of their state of belligerency and would deposit documents to that effect with the Security Council. The documents would also pledge the recognition of all states in the area, their security, their frontiers and their right to existence. Both sides would also reach agreements through Dr. Jarring on freedom of navigation, borders and a solution of the refugee problem. During the second month, according to the Jeune Afrique text, Egyptian forces would take over the Suez Canal and start dredging and clearing it for navigation. During the third month, Israeli forces would retire to the lines they occupied on June 4, 1967, the day before the outbreak of the Six-Day War. UN troops would be posted at Sharm el-Shiekh, guarding the Straits of Tiran, in Gaza and on the Sinai frontier with Israel. With the withdrawal of Israeli forces behind their original lines, the statements of non-belligerency would come into effect and the Security Council would vote to guarantee all frontiers. Observers noted that the Soviet proposals made no mention of the status of Jerusalem. Israel has rejected the plan.