Thant Pessimistic About Mideast Developments; Says Jarring Acted Within Mandate

Secretary General U Thant expressed a pessimistic view about the current situation in the Middle East, noting that “there have been no important or significant developments, to my knowledge, in the last few weeks or even the last few months since the initiative taken by Ambassador Jarring in February.” Speaking at a luncheon last Thursday afternoon sponsored by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), Thant declined to assess the significance of the Egyptian-Soviet 15-year friendship pact. “I have read the text very carefully, but I do not think any assessment or evaluation of that agreement on my part would contribute towards an improvement of the situation in the Middle East,” Thant stated. Focusing on Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring’s initiative last Feb., when the special Mideast mediator submitted his own plan for a Mideast settlement and which Israelis criticized for going beyond his mandate under Resolution 242. Thant stated that this initiative was taken with the “full knowledge of the attitude of the four permanent members of the Security Council.” The four are the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France. Thant noted that the Big Four, despite their differing interpretations of the Council resolution at the beginning, developed “a consensus” in “the course of the last two years or so, particularly in (their)…meetings in New York.”

The Secretary General stated that Dr. Jarring, on the basis of his understanding “of the attitude and mood” of the Big Four, went ahead and communicated with the governments of Israel and Egypt. Thant asserted, furthermore, that Dr. Jarring acted strictly within his mandate. Discussing efforts by the United States to help in the reopening of the Suez Canal, Thant said the primary motivation of the U.S. government, “according to official information conveyed to me from Washington,” was to “help Ambassador Jarring in his over-all attempts” to discharge his responsibilities within the framework of Resolution 242. The Secretary General said he has been in constant contact with Dr. Jarring who is currently in Moscow in his position as Sweden’s ambassador to the Soviet Union. “I understand that the he (Dr. Jarring) wants a few weeks’ home leave starting, perhaps, at the beginning of next week,” Thant said. “I will be in touch with him if and when necessary.”

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