GENEVA (Jan. 17)
Premier Golda Meir of Israel and President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast met today for three-and-a-half hours at the President’s villa on the outskirts of Geneva. The meeting, billed officially as “a general review of relations between the two countries and the Middle East situation” was shrouded in secrecy and little information was disclosed after it ended.
A joint communique issued here this evening stated that “The Ivory Coast President used the opportunity of his and Mrs. Meir’s stay in Europe in order to invite her and her suite for a meeting and lunch at his villa.” The communique stated that the two leaders expressed their “keen desire for peace in the Middle East.”
(Sources, in Jerusalem said today that Mrs. Meir did not ask the African leader “to pull Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire.” The meeting was described by the sources as merely “consultations” between the two leaders.)
Mrs. Meir was scheduled to return to Israel this evening, ending a five-day. European visit during which she attended the Socialist International meeting in Paris Saturday and Sunday and met with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in Rome Monday. She held no other meetings during her 24-hour stay in Geneva.
HIGHLY SATISFIED WITH RESULTS
An announcement yesterday in Jerusalem that Mrs. Meir was going to Geneva to meet Houphouet-Boigny came as a surprise since she was expected to return directly to Israel from Rome. Mrs. Meir’s meeting with the African leader was in fact unknown in advance to the Ivory Coast Ambassador in Switzerland.
Even as Mrs. Meir was landing last night in Geneva the Ambassador was stating publicly in Bern that no such meeting was planned and that Houphouet-Boigny had left Geneva before meeting with the Israeli Premier. Israeli circles said the misunderstanding was due to the meeting having been arranged in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast capital. Referring to the meeting, the circles here declared that they were “highly satisfied” with the results, but gave no details.
Ivory Coast is considered to have excellent relations with Israel and its President is a personal friend of Mrs. Meir. Sources in Jerusalem indicated yesterday that Mrs. Meir wanted to consult with Houphouet-Boigny in light of Israel’s serious diplomatic setbacks on the African continent during the past year. The Israeli Premier was accompanied by Simha Dinitz, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, and Mrs. Lou Kaddar, her personal assistant.