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Thant Clamps Embargo on UN Reactions to Events Relating to the Middle East

Secretary General U Thant today clamped an embargo on United Nations reactions to events relating to the Middle East. The official stance taken by Mr. Thant and UN spokesmen was “no comment” on the developments regarding the United States peace initiative, the possibility of the resumption of Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring’s peace mission, and the arrival in New York this evening of Maj. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo who on August 1 will replace Gen. Odd Bull as chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the Middle East. A UN spokesman said: “We have instructions to say nothing about the Middle East.” The silence by Mr. Thant was attributed by one source to the Secretary General’s reluctance to “rock the boat” with any statement “during this period of sensitive negotiations and studies by the Arab nations and Israel of the United States peace initiative” that could be seized by either the Israelis or the Arabs as an indication of official UN approval or disapproval of the U.S. peace plan. One diplomatic source hinted that Mr. Thant preferred to say nothing at this time because he had apparently been “burned” by his press comments in Geneva earlier this month when he characterized the Soviet peace plan as concrete, interesting, new and realistic thereby leaving the impression that he was downgrading the American peace plan. A week later, Mr. Thant met with President Nixon and other high ranking administration officials but offered no specific comment on the U.S. peace plan.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the U.S. will ask the Big Four to endorse its peace plan when the ambassadors meet again next month. It is understood that the U.S. is anxious to have the Big Four endorse the resumption of Dr. Jarring’s peace mission which has been stalled because the ambassadors have not been able to agree on any guidelines. Dr. Jarring, who is the Swedish ambassador to the Soviet Union, has reportedly been reluctant to resume his mission without a firm mandate from the four powers. United States Secretary of State William P. Rogers, in his letter to Egypt on June 19 outlining the U.S. peace proposals, wrote: “In our view, the most effective way to agree on a settlement would be for the parties to begin to work under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices” and that the outcome of the discussions between Egypt. Jordan and Israel on the UN Security Council’s cease-fire resolution “would be in the form of a report from Ambassador Jarring to Secretary General U Thant.” A spokesman for the UN said there are no travel plans for Dr. Jarring at this time. The Swedish diplomat is currently vacationing in southern Sweden. United Nations spokesmen were equally silent about the nature of Maj. Gen. Siilasvuo’s three-day visit to UN headquarters. The spokesmen would say only that he was coming here “for consultations.” Asked if Maj. Gen. Siilasvuo would discuss strengthening UNTSO forces or reorganizing them to be more effective, the official answer was “No comment.”

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