GENEVA (Jul. 7)
United Nations Secretary General U Thant indicated at a press conference here today that he was favorably impressed with the new Soviet initiative for a settlement of the Middle East conflict. “If I am to assess the Soviet Union’s proposals, I feel they have interesting and concrete elements regarding a just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Thant said in reply to questions. He declined to say whether he felt the Soviet plan was more interesting than the new United States initiative. He said he was not giving any opinions or comparisons. Mr. Thant disclosed that since he arrived here several days ago he had phoned special United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring and that they both agreed that there was no basis at the moment to reactivate Dr. Jarring’s peace-seeking mission. Mr. Thant observed that the Four Powers–United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France–will be meeting in New York again on July 15. He said that if they were able to come up at that time with guidelines as a basis for Dr. Jarring’s mission, he would be glad to reactivate it. Dr. Jarring, the Swedish Ambassador to the Soviet Union, is currently vacationing in Sweden. There have been no official disclosures of either the American or Soviet peace plans for the Mideast. Mr. Thant was reported to have seen both during his visit to the Soviet Union last month.
Asked about the possibility of stationing a UN peace-keeping force in the Middle East, a proposal which, according to unconfirmed reports, is part of the U.S. peace plan, Mr. Thant told newsmen that action by the Security Council rather than the General Assembly would be required to send a UN force into the Middle East. He said the present force of UN truce observers in the Suez Canal zone was stationed there on the basis of Security Council resolutions and he was not competent to revise their functions. He said UN forces should not be withdrawn without the Council’s decision. Asked whether the question of Soviet missiles in Egypt had been discussed during his visit to Moscow, Mr. Thant replied that the matter was not brought up and that he was not officially informed of it. Mr. Thant was asked if he regarded the presence of SAM missiles in Egypt as self-defense. He replied that from the UN point of view a distinction should be made between purely offensive and purely defensive weapons. “I am still hopeful that a political and peaceful settlement (in the Mideast) is possible,” the Secretary General said. Asked by newsmen whether Dr. Jarring was involved in drafting the Soviet Union proposals Mr. Thant replied that he was not involved. (In New York, diplomatic sources at the U.S., British and Israeli Missions declined comment on Mr. Thant’s remarks pending study of the complete transcript of the news conference.) Mr. Thant met yesterday for half an hour with Zoia Mironova, the Soviet Ambassador to Switzerland. He had conferred Saturday with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.