Soviets Trot out ‘new’ Mideast Peace Plan; Washington Says Nyet New

The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda today spelled out a Middle East peace proposal envisaging demilitarized zones and a United Nations peace-keeping force backed up by the Big Powers or the UN Security Council. The Russian plan would have Israel withdraw to the boundaries that existed before the June, 1967, Arab-Israeli war. (In Washington, the State Department today brushed off the Soviet Union’s “new” Middle East peace plan as nothing very new. Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and Southeast Asian Affairs, said on NBC-TV’s “Today” program that the Soviet proposal was “soured wine in an old bottle.” Department spokesman John King, at his noon press briefing, commented: “Our people feel this (plan) is not new – in fact it’s an old one.” At the United Nations in New York a foreign diplomat said Great Britain also feels the plan has “no new elements.”) The plan was originally brought to light last month in the form of a pamphlet distributed to journalists in Moscow by Novosti, the Soviet press agency whose despatches are only published outside the USSR. It was regarded at the time as a trial balloon rather than an official Soviet program. The appearance of the proposals in Pravda today indicated that they have been elevated to a higher status.

Pravda complained that the Soviet plan was being ignored by the Western powers. The article said. “The Soviet proposals were formulated on the basis of a sober analysis of the situation in the Middle East and with due account for the positions taken by the participants in the conflict, as well as for the bilateral and quadrilateral consultations on a Middle East settlement.” (In his television interview, Mr. Sisco emphasized, as Secretary of State William P. Rogers had similarly last Friday, that Egypt’s standstill violations “could not have taken place without the knowledge and assistance of the Soviet Union.” As to Soviet insistence that the USSR was not a party to the standstill cease-fire agreement, Mr. Sisco said that Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin had personally given Mr. Rogers his acceptance of the terms. The USSR is thus a direct party to the truce. Mr. Sisco asserted. Mr. King said that Mr. Rogers would have dinner tomorrow at the Soviet Mission in New York with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko, at which time the Egyptian violations “certainly will be discussed.” The question of the substance of the dinner meeting was posed by the representative of Tass, the Soviet press agency.)

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