Marseilles (Oct. 28)
Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid Brezhnev claimed today that “Israeli aggression was poisoning the entire atmosphere in the Middle East.” Addressing a reception in his honor at the Prefecture, Brezhnev said. “We want the Mediterranean area to be a region of peace and tranquility but unfortunately this is not possible” owing to “Israeli aggression.”
Brezhnev’s remarks were the first he has made in public on the Middle East since arriving in France on an official visit Monday. He appeared to be responding to the Jewish demonstrators who have dogged his visit protesting the treatment of Soviet Jews. As the Soviet leader flew back to Paris this afternoon, a mass demonstration of solidarity with Russian Jews was being held in the French capital.
Brezhnev also seemed to be replying to an oblique attack on Soviet policies towards Jews made by Gaston DeFerre, the Socialist Mayor of Marseilles and a former opposition candidate for the French presidency. DeFerre expressed the hope that the France-Soviet agreements concluded between Brezhnev and President Georges Pompidou included “clauses safeguarding the interests of religious and ethnic minorities inside the Soviet Union.” Political” Political observers said DeFerre was referring to the interests of Soviet Jews. France and Russia signed a 10 year trade pact in Paris yesterday.