UNITED NATIONS, N.Y (Oct. 25)
The General Assembly will be the arena this week for a war of words on the Middle East. Western diplomats are working overtime to forestall the debate from mushrooming into words of war. Efforts behind the scenes and publicly are being mounted, and promise to continue right up to the wire tomorrow when the debate is tentatively scheduled to begin, to reach some compromise that will soften the verbal slugfest. At stake is the meaning of Security Council Resolution 242 which has been the basis for all peace moves so far. Within the past few days diplomatic maneuvering in Washington and in the United Nations has revealed that the United States, which launched the Mideast peace initiative several months ago that led to the cease-fire, is now preparing to soften its demand for rectification of standstill violations that have, according to Israel, been going on almost daily since the truce went into effect on Aug. 7. The most obvious indication of a softer approach was, diplomatic sources at the UN noted, the absence of any reference to standstill violations by President Nixon in his address Friday to the General Assembly. Several hours later, UN Secretary General U Thant announced that the Big Four had agreed to exert their “utmost efforts” to renew peace talks under the auspices of UN mediator Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring but contained no mention of charges that Egypt and the Soviet Union have violated the cease-fire standstill truce.
Sources here noted that the acceptance of Mr. Thant’s statement by the U.S. was another indication of a retreat by the administration on insistence of rectification. Further evidence of the U.S. retreat, observers noted, emerged from talks Friday between Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad during which Mr. Rogers was reported to have told Mr. Riad that the U.S. was prepared to delay until next July payment of $112 million in bank debts to Washington as Cairo had requested. In addition, sources in Washington noted that the question of standstill violations was not a topic of discussion between President Nixon and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko when the two met last Thursday in the White House. In his address before the General Assembly. Mr. Nixon appealed for a continuation of the Middle East cease-fire agreement and for the “building” of peace in that troubled area with Big Two support. He declared: “The Middle East is a place today where local rivalries are intense, and where the vital interests of the United States and the Soviet Union are both involved. Quite obviously, the primary responsibility for achieving a peaceful settlement rests on the nations of the Middle East themselves. But in this region in particular, it is imperative that the two major powers conduct themselves so as to strengthen the forces of peace rather than to strengthen the forces of war.”
RECTIFICATION OF TRUCE VIOLATIONS ABSENT FROM NIXON, THANT STATEMENTS
The President emphasized that “It is essential that we and the Soviet Union join in efforts toward avoiding war in the Middle East, and also toward developing a climate in which the nations of the Middle East will learn to live and let live.” That last phrase was seen as a plea to the Arab states not to seek
Mr. Thant’s announcement added that the Four Powers would “continue their consultations” and their permanent representatives in New York will meet again tomorrow. Although it was reported that the U.S. objected to the joint communique because it lacked any reference to the U.S.-Israeli charges of standstill violations nor any demand for rectification, French sources interpreted Mr. Rogers’ acceptance of the statement as a sign that the U.S. was shifting away from the demand for rectification. American sources said Washington had not actually dropped its demand for rectification but that constant repetition of this demand seemed futile. Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban left Israel Friday morning for New York where he will lead the Israeli efforts this week against an anti-Israel resolution planned by the Arab bloc in the General Assembly. He was accompanied by David Rivlin, head of the Foreign Ministry bureau. Departing from Israel, Mr. Eban told newsmen at Lydda Airport in Tel Aviv that Israeli soldiers along the Suez Canal would not initiate shooting after the 90-day cease-fire ends Nov. 5. Earlier, Mr. Eban announced that Israel would not be bound by any resolution unfavorable to his country.