UNITED NATIONS, N.Y (Mar. 18)
The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Charles W. Yost, indicated yesterday that the Big Four powers may consider stationing a new, stronger UN peace-keeping force in the Mideast when they meet here to discuss the Mideast problem, probably “not too long from now.” Mr. Yost spoke in reply to questions at a luncheon of the UN Correspondents Association to which he came directly following a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban.
The U.S. Ambassador indicated that America favored such a force and believed it would provide sufficient military security for Israel. He said that the essential element of a Big Four agreement on a new UN military presence in the Mideast would be that it could be withdrawn only upon the request of an appropriate UN body. The previous UN peace-keeping force, stationed in the Sinai and Gaza Strip after the 1956 Arab-Israel war, was withdrawn by Secretary-General U Thant at the request of Egypt in May, 1967, a move considered to have been a major factor in precipitating the Six-Day War.
Bilateral talks among the Big Four powers on an ambassadorial level at the UN have been going on for nearly two months but the Four Powers–U.S., Britain, France and the Soviet Union–have delayed getting together for a full dress discussion of the Mideast problem. That delay has been attributed in part to U.S. insistence that the Four Powers take up the entire problem as a package rather than as a piecemeal approach that appears to be favored by France and the USSR. Ambassador Yost indicated that when the Big Four meet, they will not initially take up the substance of the problem but will try to reach some agreement on the procedures, ground rules and scope of the talks and will also try to assess each others’ sincerity in reaching a common ground. It was indicated also that the U.S. and Soviet representatives will continue their private bilateral discussions while Four Power discussions are going on and that the U.S. simultaneously will be “consulting” with the Israelis and the Russians with the Arabs.
The Big Powers have not succeeded in allaying Israel’s fears that an agreement among the four, possibly one inimical to Israel’s interests, would carry such pressures that it would amount to an imposed solution even if stated otherwise. Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban has argued during his visit here that Big Power intervention could only worsen the Mideast situation by taking it out of its regional context and casting it as an international issue. That, he claimed, could increase the dangers of a nuclear confrontation which the U.S. and Soviets appear anxious to avoid. Mr. Eban has stated that there was no danger at present of a new war breaking out and has played down recent eruptions of fighting along the Suez Canal and the Israel-Jordan cease-fire line. The Arab states, on the other hand, have used the renewed fighting in an attempt to impress the Big Powers that another major explosion was imminent and that urgent international action was needed.
Israel appeared more determined than ever to insist on direct negotiations with the Arabs leading to a contractual peace agreement. Israeli diplomats reportedly have told others that the U.S. has not changed its belief that Arab renunciation of belligerency must be settled by an accord with Israel. The Washington Post’s UN correspondent Robert H. Estabrook reported today that “this is regarded by U.S. sources as an exaggeration” and “there had been impatience with Eban for undertaking to state American policy on Four Power talks following his meeting with President Nixon last week.” Times correspondent Hedrick Smith reported from Washington today that Israel has flatly turned down a French proposal which represented a shift toward Israel’s position. Mr. Smith said foreign diplomatic sources reported that France handed a position paper to Israel that no longer called for complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.
The French paper, according to the sources cited by Mr. Smith, spoke of “agreed rectifications” or adjustments of the 1967 cease-fire line. “Although the French paper thus moved toward Israel’s position on this point it fell short of Israeli demands on a number of other key issues and, according to well placed informants, has been sharply rejected by Israel,” Mr. Smith wrote. He said Israeli diplomats considered the French paper “negative and hostile to Israeli interests because it seemed to suggest two-phased negotiations, requiring Israeli withdrawals before such fundamental problems as the Arab refugee issue and the future status of Jerusalem are settled.” The Israelis also objected to the French failure to specify Israeli maritime rights in the Strait of Tiran and the language of the paper which employed terms frequently used by the Arabs, not by Israel,” he said. Mr. Smith said, “The U.S. reaction on the other hand has been more favorable though American officials emphasize that there is still a considerable gap between the French and American positions.”