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Mrs. Meir Meeting with President of Ivory Coast on Israeli-african Relations

Israeli Premier Golda Meir arrived here today for talks with Ivory Coast President Felix Houphouet-Boigny on the future of African-Israeli relations. Mrs. Meir arrived at Cointrin Airport this morning amidst top security precautions taken by city and military police. She arrived from Rome where she met yesterday with Pope Paul VI and top Italian government officials.

Mrs. Meir is expected to discuss with Houphouet-Boigny Israel’s deteriorating relations with the African continent. Within the last ten months, five African countries–Uganda, Mali, Niger, Chad and Congo-Brazaville–have broken diplomatic relations with Israel. The African leader and the Israeli Premier are old friends going back to Mrs. Meir’s days as Foreign Minister. Her meeting with the Ivory Coast President has thus far been wrapped in secrecy.

(According to reports this morning from Jerusalem, the visit between the African and Israeli leaders came as a complete surprise. There was no hint at her press conference yesterday in Rome at the Israeli-Embassy that the planned to go to Switzerland. Mrs. Meir is accompanied by her personal secretary, Mrs. Lou Kaddar, who formerly headed the Foreign Ministry’s African Department.)

MEETING WITH POPE HISTORIC EVENT

At her press conference, Mrs. Meir indicated that she considered her meeting with Pope Paul to have been an historic event. “It isn’t once a week that a representative of Israel has the opportunity to meet the Pope and discuss our problems with him. I’m very happy that the audience took place,” Mrs. Meir said. She observed that “Anybody with historic perspective cannot possibly refuse to see there is historic value in it. I was very gratified when the Pope expressed his appreciation of the way Israel was taking care of the holy places.”

Asked if she considered a verbal statement by a Vatican spokesman playing down the importance of her Papal audience to be a “diplomatic slap in the face,” Mrs. Meir replied, “I didn’t break into the Vatican. I came because the meeting had been arranged. I have no excuses to offer for my coming.”

Frederico Allessandrini, a lay spokesman for the Vatican, said yesterday that the granting of an audience to the Israeli Premier was not “a preferential or exclusive gesture” and stressed the Vatican’s cordial relations with the Arab states and the fact that the Pope has received King Hussein of Jordan and other Arab leaders, Mrs. Meir said she didn’t want to enter into polemics “with those who issued that statement” and would stand by the official Vatican communique issued after her audience.”

TEXT OF JOINT VATICAN-ISRAELI STATEMENT

This morning, Jan. 16, 1973, His Holiness Pope Paul received Mrs. Golds Meir Prime Minister of Israel, who was accompanied by the Israeli Ambassador to Italy, H.E. Amiel E. Najar. The conversation which lasted about an hour, covered the situation in the Middle East and the specific problems concerning the Holy Land.

His Holiness, after having reviewed the history and the sufferances of the Jewish people, presented the Holy See’s point of view on the problems which have to a large extent relevance to its humanitarian mission such as the refugee problem and the situation of the various communities which live in the Holy Land and those which are directly related to its more specifically religious mission regarding the holy places and the sacred and universal character of the City of Jerusalem.

The Prime Minister emphasized Israel’s desire for peace and amply described the position of the possibilities in reaching a peaceful solution in the Middle Eastern conflict through negotiations between the parties and on the above mentioned subjects, and also referred to the phenomenon of terrorism as well as to the special condition concerning Jewish communities in certain parts of the world.

His Holiness finally, in expressing his warmest wishes that justice and law would establish peace and co-existence among all peoples of the Middle East, once again declared the intention of the Holy See to do all within its possibilities in order to reach these goals.

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