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State Department Sees Little Merit in French Peace Proposal, May Dismiss It

The State Department has indicated that it sees little merit in the French Government proposal, announced Friday, for a Big Four Ambassadors meeting in the Security Council on the Middle East crisis. Spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said that Washington would “study the proposal carefully” but noted that the United States continued to believe that primary efforts to achieve a “just and lasting peace” called for in the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 Mideast resolution should rest with UN envoy Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring.

State Department officials said that unless the new Nixon Administration decided to alter U.S. policy, the Government would reject the French proposal, requested in separate notes to Washington, London and Moscow. They said the department favored individual consultations with the major powers in the UN Council rather than a formal Four Power meeting on the grounds that the latter might weaken the Jarring mission and diminish the UN’s ability to bring about a Mideast solution. The Johnson Administration’s position has been that Mideast peace must result from efforts originating in the region itself and must not be imposed from outside.

In a related development, the U.S. has proposed to the Soviet Union “two-track” negotiations–or “consultations”–which would be a continuing exchange between Moscow and Washington, with the aim of hammering out common elements of a peace settlement which would help Dr. Jarring mark out the “perimeters” for detailed Arab-Israel negotiations. The second–and, in the U.S. view, more crucial–set of talks would be between Israel and the Arab states in the UN context provided by Dr. Jarring. The Rusk note was cleared in advance with Secretary of State-designate William P. Rogers of the new Nixon Administration. The dual negotiations it proposed would go on simultaneously. They would also be tied to talks between the U.S. and Moscow and their “friends” in the Middle East. The U.S. note also said the Jarring mission would be aided if “all parties concerned” sought to restrain Arab terrorism, which provokes Israeli reprisal, and repeated suggestions for Soviet-U.S. limitations on arms shipments to the area.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban has also rejected the French proposal and called for establishment of peace through the “parties directly concerned.” Mr. Eban said, “Rather than devoting time and energy in deliberation among themselves, the two Great Powers should try and bring” the Arabs and Israel “together in order to further peace among them.” He said the “fate and future” of the Mideast can only be decided by its people “rather than by outside powers who have at most only a marginal interest in the area.” Any imposed peace, he said, would not be a settlement “because the parties against whom it is imposed would at the first possibility feel themselves free to disengage themselves from it.” The French statement contained no direct reference to the recent Soviet proposal on Mideast peace sent to Paris, London and Washington, but the French have indicated they regard it as a basis for discussions.

REPORT GREAT BRITAIN COOL; SECRETARY-GENERAL THANT PLEASED

Great Britain reportedly was cool to the French plan. London was said to believe that British and French mediation is unnecessary, since it cannot be effective unless Moscow and Washington reach agreement on peace measures. UN Secretary General U Thant has expressed strong support for the French proposal on the condition that negotiations remain within the UN context. He said Big Four talks in the Security Council would help Dr. Jarring’s mission. He opposes a separate Big Four initiative outside the UN.

In making its proposal, France said that the Big Four representatives in the Council should discuss means of “establishing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” but made it clear that it did not seek an imposed settlement on Israel and the Arab states. The goal of the Big Four, it said, should be to “open the road to a settlement” in which the concerned states would be “intimately associated.” France said the immediate goal of the talks would be to “define the conditions” in which the Security Council Nov. 22, 1967 measure could be implemented and, later, to make such action possible. It suggested that the Big Four Ambassadors work in “liaison” with Secretary-General Thant. The 1967 resolution called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, the right of secure and recognized boundaries in the region, and end to belligerency, guaranteed freedom of navigation through the area’s international waterways, a just settlement of the refugee problem and a guarantee of territorial inviolability through measures including establishment of demilitarized zones.

Mr. Eban told the Cabinet yesterday that the Soviet proposal would restore Middle East conditions to those prevailing before the outbreak of the Six-Day War, and said the U.S. Government saw this as a prescription for resumption of hostilities. He said that all Israeli diplomats had been asked to point out that these proposals, “by a power which contributed to the tension in 1967 and has no relations with Israel cannot be a basis or a frame of reference for any discussion.” He said Israel will continue to find a solution through Dr. Jarring, who was scheduled to resume his mission this month but will delay it until February owing to the change of Administration in Washington.

A Government spokesman declined to comment when asked about a report in the authoritative Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram saying the U.S. had proposed to the Soviet Union that Israeli troops continue to be stationed at Sharm el-Sheikh at the entrance to the Straits of Tiran.

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