UNITED NATIONS (Aug. 25)
The hectic rounds of Middle East peace talks began this morning as Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring met with the ambassadors of Israel, Jordan and Egypt–separately and in that order–and was scheduled to meet again this afternoon with Israeli Ambassador Yosef Tekoah. Each of the ambassadors expressed cautious optimism that the talks would be fruitful and lead to a settlement of the Mideast conflict. Emerging from a 45-minute conference with Dr. Jarring, Mr. Tekoah told newsmen that he had presented the peace mediator with the basic principles of Israel’s position on peace in the Middle East. (A basic ingredient in the official Israeli position, according to the text released Aug. 4 in reply to the United States peace initiative, is that withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict to secure, recognized and agreed boundaries will be determined in the peace agreements.) Mr. Tekoah said that to end by a peace agreement the 22-year conflict “requires the solution of many difficult problems, but we believe if the Arabs would prove desirous to establish a genuine peace with us the objective of the discussions could be attained.” Mr. Tekoah also told newsmen that he would leave tonight for Israel for consultations in Jerusalem. He is expected to return to New York on Friday.
Abdul Hamid Sharaf, the Jordanian ambassador to Washington who was filling in for Muhammad H. El Farra, the UN ambassador who returned to Amman for consultations with his government, said after his meeting with Dr. Jarring that the problem of the Palestinian refugees must be part of the solution to the Mideast conflict. He repeated his government’s demands that Israel withdraw from all the occupied territories. Mohammed Hassan El Zayyat, the Egyptian ambassador to the UN. told newsmen on his way into a conference with Dr. Jarring that he would be available for talks as long “as Dr. Jarring wants me to.” Asked if he was encouraged by the peace talks, he remarked, “Naturally.” The start of the talks had been announced yesterday afternoon by Dr. Jarring during an unprecedented meeting with the news media. The Swedish peace envoy, who had been trying to promote agreement among the three nations for two-and-a-half years, issued a short statement noting in part: “The parties will be represented in the initial stage by their Permanent Representatives (to the UN). It continues to be my hope that at a later stage the discussions can be held at the Foreign Minister’s level. I feel sure that the parties will enter the discussions with the firm intention of finding a solution. I hope that with good will and understanding they will in time reach agreement on a just and lasting peace.” Dr. Jarring’s announcement came shortly after Ambassador Tekoah telephoned him to notify him officially that Israel had designated him as the alternate to the peace talks and Foreign Minister Abba Eban as chief negotiator. There was no immediate explanation either from Mr. Tekoah or Dr. Jarring as to why the Israeli ambassador waited almost 24 hours to submit the designations. Israel had announced her negotiators on Sunday.
THANT CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT SETTLEMENT; BIG FOUR TO PLAY MINOR ROLE
A spokesman for the UN said today that with the talks finally under way Dr. Jarring does not intend to make any further statements. He had been asked by newsmen yesterday whether the talks might eventually be held elsewhere in view of the preference expressed by Israel that they be conducted in Cyprus or Europe. Dr. Jarring said he expected to limit the talks to “my office upstairs on the 38th floor.” That floor, the highest at the UN, is also the headquarters for Secretary General U Thant. A UN spokesman also said that Mr. Thant expressed “cautious optimism” about the negotiations. Asked if Mr. Thant was more optimistic now than at any other time since 1967, a spokesman reported that the Secretary General had replied: “Definitely.” UN spokesmen said they did not know whether Dr. Jarring would submit any report dealing with the talks to the Security Council or to the Big Four. Dr. Jarring, during his press conference, did not exclude the possibility of maintaining contact with the Four Powers–The United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France–which have been conducting their own meetings in New York in an attempt to resolve the Middle East crisis. He added, however, that he did not think the Big Four would play a major role in his procedures. He observed that he would “keep in touch” with the Four Power ambassadors in “a normal way” in their functions as members of the Security Council. Dr. Jarring also stated that he hoped there would be no breaks in the peace talks and that “we will be continuing every day now without delays. At least we are not looking for delays, I can tell you that.” He declined to discuss his plans for the next steps in the negotiations. “Procedure is something that is coming. It is impossible to say anything today,” he told the news conference.
The Israelis have emphasized that for the talks to remain on the ambassadorial level would be a form of downgrading them and have repeated that eventually the talks should be conducted on the ministerial level. But Israel has agreed to begin the talks on the ambassadorial level in order not to delay the negotiations. Naming both its Foreign Minister and UN ambassador as negotiators was seen here by diplomatic sources as a “working compromise” to get the talks moving. Mr. Eban is not expected here until late next month when he is scheduled to address the General Assembly. Israel has also expressed a preference for direct talks with the Arabs. This procedure was also suggested by U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers in his letter to Egypt on June 19 when he wrote that “depending on the progress of discussions, we believe the parties will find it necessary to meet together at some point if peace is to be established between them.” There was no immediate indication here today either from Dr. Jarring or Mr. Tekoah as to when direct talks could be expected to begin or how long the present level of negotiations will continue. The Egyptian and Jordanian ministers are expected to arrive here sometime around Sept. 15 when the General Assembly reconvenes.