UNITED NATIONS (Jun. 22)
A possible breakthrough in Middle East peace talks between the United States and the Soviet Union was reported here today. A spokesman for the United Nations said that Secretary General U Thant, during his visit last week in Moscow, “was informed of new elements in the United States and the Soviet Union positions regarding the Middle East.” The spokesman said that Mr. Thant “feels that these new elements could narrow the gap” between the two major powers. The spokesman said Mr. Thant’s view of this development was obtained during his talks with high Soviet officials and from a “message from the United States embassy in Moscow.” Asked where the message had originated, the spokesman said, “I believe from the State Department.” (A State Department spokesman in Washington declined today to comment on the “message and “new elements.”) There was no immediate indication of what was in the message or the content of the talks between Mr. Thant and Soviet officials, other than that the talks concerned the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Mr. Thant, during his visit to Moscow, also met with his special Mideast peace envoy, Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring who is the Swedish Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Informed sources at the UN said it was unlikely that Dr. Jarring would resume his peace mission in the immediate future. The Big Four meetings in New York have failed to produce a guideline for Dr. Jarring to resume his mission. Without such a guideline a peace mission would prove fruitless.
Informed sources, however, noted that several developments in the past two weeks may have served to pave the way toward narrowing the gap between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. A basic consideration appears to be a fear on the part of both big powers of an extremist takeover of the guerrilla movements which would undermine both American and Russian positions in the Middle East. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine headed by Dr. George Habash, has proclaimed as its aim the overthrow of both the Arab regimes and Israel. Dr. Habash is avowedly anti-American and only luke-warm toward the Soviet Union, preferring instead, the more extremist regime of Communist China. Another basic consideration that might bring the two major powers closer in their willingness to discuss is America’s willingness to take the initiative to defuse the Mideast crisis by a more direct approach to Egypt, by hard bargaining with the Soviet Union, and by selling only a limited number of jets to Israel. (Circles in Washington this weekend, noted that the meeting Saturday between Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin was held at the initiative of the U.S.) Charles W. Yost, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, in his appearance yesterday on television’s “Meet the Press” program replied that more will be heard within the next few days regarding U.S. initiatives. “But the immediate effort will be to get Ambassador Jarring restarted on his negotiating mission,” Mr. Yost told his interviewers.