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Foreign Ministry: Thant’s View on Soviet Peace Plan Reflects Intensive Moscow Briefing

The Israeli Foreign Ministry implied today that United Nations Secretary General U Thant was brain-washed on the Middle East during his recent visit to Moscow. A Ministry statement issued by the Government Press Office said that Mr. Thant’s remarks at a press conference in Geneva yesterday “certainly seem to reflect the very intensive briefing to which the Secretary General appears to have been subjected during his recent stay in Moscow.” The Foreign Ministry statement referred to newspaper reports of Mr. Thant’s press conference which claimed that the Secretary General had said that the new Soviet plan for the Middle East was more realistic than the American plan. (A study by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of the verbatim transcript of the Thant press conference found no such comparison. The transcript showed that Mr. Thant took pains to avoid being drawn by newsmen into making a comparison between the Soviet and American plans. According to the verbatim transcript, Mr. Thant stated: “If I am to assess the latest proposals, I must say that the Soviet proposals have some interesting and concrete elements as regards the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I am still hopeful that a peaceful solution, a political solution, is possible as regards the Middle East situation.”

The transcript continued with the questions by newsmen and Mr. Thant’s answers. Question:”Do you think that the Soviet plan is more interesting and concrete than the United States plan?” Mr. Thant: “I do not want to venture any opinion by way of comparing the two proposals. But, as I said a moment ago, so far as the question of establishing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is concerned, the new Soviet proposals have certain new and concrete elements.” Question: “You said that you were not going to compare the Soviet and American proposals, but you said that the Soviet proposal was very interesting for lasting peace. By implication, one would say that the American proposal was not.” Mr. Thant: “No. I am just pin-pointing one aspect of the problem. You will recall that the Big Powers seemed to agree that there remain three basic issues in the Middle East: Withdrawal, peace and boundaries. As far as the question of peace is concerned, in my view the Soviet proposal has concrete elements. I am not saying that the United States proposal has no concrete elements, but the United States proposal deals with other aspects of the problem. The United States position on peace is also well known. The United States is very desirous of the restoration of peace in the area, as is well known. But what I am saying is that the new Soviet proposal contains some new elements regarding the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the area. I am just stressing the fact that the Soviet Union–for the first time, to my knowledge–has come out with concrete and positive elements regardant this particular aspect of the problem, that is, the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the area.”

Question: “Could you identify these concrete elements that you find interesting in the new Soviet proposal?” Mr. Thant: “I do not think I am in a position to disclose the substance of the proposals; but they are, of course, in the possession of all the Big Powers.” At the conclusion of his press conference Mr. Thant also referred to the Soviet proposals as having “realistic elements.”) (In Washington, State Department spokesman Carl Bartch said today that the administration will offer no comment on Mr. Tbant’s assessment of the Soviet plan and his silence regarding the United States peace plan until the official transcript of Mr. Thant’s press interview has been thoroughly studied.) The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s criticism of Mr. Thant reflected a widely held view here that the Secretary General is not impartial in the Israel-Arab dispute and that he tends to favor the Arab side. It was pointed out that Mr. Thant, while travelling extensively in the Middle East, has never visited Israel in his capacity of Secretary General. He came to this country only once, in the early 1950s, as secretary to the then Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu. Israelis have also accused Mr. Thant of a policy of “highly selective abridgements” of the published reports of UN truce observers in the Mideast.

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