Eban Terms Meir-pope Meeting As a Major Foreign Policy Development

Foreign Minister Abba Eban today described Premier Golda Meir’s meeting with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican Jan. 15 as one of the major foreign policy developments for Israel. But Gahal opposition leader Menachem Beigin complained that “too much fuss” was being made over the meeting.

Presenting a foreign policy statement to the Knesset, Eban described Mrs. Meir’s talk with the Pontiff as a “sincere and open-minded dialogue” conducted in an atmosphere of equality and mutual sovereignty. He said there were moments of argument, but that these did not detract from the significance of what the Pope himself termed an historic occasion. Eban observed that the meeting had aroused tragic memories of which both sides were aware. He noted that following his own meeting with the Pope three years ago, Israel sought to continue its dialogue with the Vatican at the highest level.

Beigin insisted that since Pope Paul had visited Israel himself and had met with Eban at the Vatican, his meeting with Mrs. Meir should not have been played up as much as it was.

Informed sources said yesterday that Israel has assured representatives of non-Roman Catholic churches here that nothing was done against their interests when Premier Meir discussed the holy places in Jerusalem with Pope Paul. The sources said that officials of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and other churches were understood to have expressed concern that their interests might have been affected by the discussions in the Vatican last week.

ISRAEL TIES WITH EUROPE, AFRICA, OUTLINED

Eban also reported in his foreign policy address that Premier Meir’s visit to Paris Jan. 13-14 to attend the meeting of the Socialist International had helped strengthen Israel’s ties with the Socialist and Labor premiers attending. He

Eban noted that he would go to Brussels Jan. 31 to sign a protocol with the European Common Market providing for a tariff freeze during the year while negotiations proceeded for a new treaty with the nine EEC members, and that while in Brussels he would attempt to ascertain the possible attitude of the new EEC members, especially Britain, toward Israel’s requirements. Eban said he hoped Britain’s favorable trade balance with Israel would influence London’s outlook.

The Foreign Minister said Israel would seek to expand and deepen its position in Africa despite the recent diplomatic setbacks there. He said he was certain that most African states were not submissive to the pressures that prompted five African nations to sever diplomatic ties with Israel during the past year. Eban confirmed that he would visit several African capitals in the near future but mentioned none by name. He said the Cabinet would soon act on his suggestion for a thorough review of African policy.

Beigin, speaking for the opposition, expressed wariness over Mrs. Meir’s scheduled visit to Washington March 1 to meet with President Nixon. He said that Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ recent statement about implementing UN Security Council Resolution 242 in its entirety indicated that the U.S. envisaged only minor border changes which, according to Beigin, 90 percent of the Israeli population rejects. He observed that Mrs. Meir’s meeting with Nixon would be taking place during the final months of her Premiership, and that if her statements about retirement are to be believed, she should be careful not to commit her successor to certain American policies.

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