WASHINGTON (Feb. 5)
President Nixon’s Middle East policy is yet to emerge fully. But there are signs that it may be predicated on a desire to avoid a confrontation with the Soviet Union in the Middle East and on improvement of United States relations with France.
These directions were suggested today when Mr. Nixon asked the Senate to ratify promptly the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to prevent the spread of atomic weapons and advocated “negotiation rather than confrontation” with the USSR. He also indicated that he might visit Paris before the end of February, the first stop on his first European four since taking office.
Secretary of State William P. Rogers today accepted France’s proposed Big Four (U.S., Britain, France, Russia) meetings at the United Nations on a Mideast settlement. He handed a note to French Ambassador Charles Lucet. The White House would not divulge its contents.
While the President opposes permitting France or Russia to dictate an imposed settlement, he is said to have tentatively accepted a formula that would expand the role of UN mediator Gunnar V. Jarring. Such a formula would impose the UN as a diplomatic buffer between Israel and the U.S. so that Washington could not be blamed directly for a settlement which Israel might find unacceptable, reports JTA Washington correspondent Milton Freidman.
Washington basically sympathizes with Israel’s position on direct Israel-Arab negotiations. But the State Department has suggested to Mr. Nixon that Israel is excessively “rigid” and that pressure is necessary. Informed sources said the new Administration would prefer the pressure to come from the UN rather than from Washington. Bringing the Middle East conflict to the UN would also allow the U.S. to achieve more flexibility in other dealings with Russia and France while avoiding a super-power clash in the Middle East, they said.
The Administration’s acceptance of France’s Four Power proposal represents a departure from the Johnson Administration’s coolness to the plan. Mr. Nixon’s call for immediate ratification of the nuclear non-proliferation pact placed him on the same ground as former President Johnson and moved him away from his campaign view that the U.S. ought not to rush into signing the treaty. Israel had been under pressure from the Johnson Administration to ratify the pact, has strong reservations against it, and has indicated it would delay action to study further its ramifications. Israel’s position has not changed.
Sen. J. W. Fulbright, Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said today his committee welcomed Mr. Nixon’s treaty ratification bid, indicating that the pact would help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to nations such as Israel.
In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry director-general Gideon Rafael told foreign correspondents he thought the U.S. wanted to strengthen the mission of Dr. Jarring because no one wanted to return the Middle East issue to the Security Council. He did not think Washington intended to bypass Dr. Jarring or end his role.