Behind the Headlines Vietnam Peace Accord May Be Harbinger-for Mideast Accord
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Behind the Headlines Vietnam Peace Accord May Be Harbinger-for Mideast Accord

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In important aspects, the U.S. government followed political principles and philosophy in negotiating the agreements to end the war in Vietnam that it has espoused for settling the conflict in the Middle East Observers therefore saw in the details of the Vietnam agreement the seeds for success in the animosities between Arabs and-Israelis. In announcing the agreement Tuesday night, Pres. Nixon declared that a peace in Southeast Asia “contributes to the prospects of peace in the whole world.”

A major element in the American position in Vietnam, as in the Middle East, is its consistent adherence to the principle of non-imposition of political solutions on other people by any form of coercion, military or otherwise. This was outlined yesterday by Dr. Henry Kissinger, who bore the burden of the long negotiating process with the North Vietnamese as Nixon’s principal foreign affairs advisor.

Detailing the agreement for newsmen at a briefing lasting almost two hours, Dr. Kissinger said in relation to the Vietnam agreement on the right of the South Vietnamese people to self-determination: “The significance of this part of the agreement is that the United States will not impose any political solution on the people of Vietnam. The United States has consistently maintained it will not impose a coalition government or a disguised coalition government.” In effect, Dr. Kissinger said what Nixon and Secretary of State William P. Rogers have long been saying: that it is up to the parties in the Middle East conflict to reach an agreement and that major powers must not impose one.

Inasmuch as the Israeli government has frequently signified its desire to negotiate with the Arab leaders, the U.S. principle of non-imposition and negotiation was seen as bearing down on the Arab states, primarily Egypt which is balking on even entering talks for reopening the Suez Canal as a start for an overall settlement.

Other points by Dr. Kissinger on Vietnam that may relate to the Middle East were that the use of “military force or any other form of coercion is impermissable,” and that military movements across demarcation lines are “flatly prohibited.” Egypt has been insisting on moving troops across the canal and as far into the Sinai as it likes.


Use of Laos and Cambodia, Dr. Kissinger also said, is “specifically prohibited for use against any other country” and the agreement contains a “flat prohibition against the use” of these neighboring nations for bases for “infiltration” into Vietnam or any other country. This principle, when applied to the Middle East, could signify the end of terrorist establishments on Israel’s borders.

All foreign troops into Indo-China must be withdrawn under the agreement, Dr. Kissinger said, Translated into Middle East terms this would mean the withdrawal of what remains of Soviet forces in Egypt and those moved into Syria, Peace in Indo-China, Dr. Kissinger observed, “requires self-restraint of major countries, especially those which supplied the wherewithall.” This appears to be a reference to the Soviet Union and China.

Paraphrasing Nixon’s statements, Dr. Kissinger expressed a philosophy about Vietnam which could also be applicable to the Middle East and its peoples: “The United States is seeking a peace that heals. We want a peace that will last, Our firm intention with North Vietnam is to move from hostilities to normalization and from normalization to conciliation.” In accordance with U.S. tradition, he continued, “under conditions of peace we can contribute to the humane aspirations of all peoples of Indo-China.”

Dr. Kissinger struck a note that seemed particularly applicable to Arab feelings. “It is not easy to achieve in negotiation what has not been achieved on the battlefield,” adding, “by definition,” after wars, the lines of demarcation nearly always followed the lines of control. Dr. Kissinger also struck a note of hope that could apply to the situation in the Middle East: the North Vietnamese “are the most difficult people to negotiate with that have ever encountered when they do not want to settle. They are also the most effective when they finally decide to settle. That is why we have gone through peaks and valleys in these negotiations of extraordinary intensity.”

Referring to the suffering, hatred and fighting in Vietnam these past 25 years–a reference that could just as well apply to the situation since 1948 in the Middle East–Dr. Kissinger said: “Of course the hatred will not rapidly disappear, and of course people who have fought for 25 years will not easily give up their objectives. But also people who have suffered for 25 years may at last come to know that they can achieve their real satisfaction by other and less brutal means….(I)t should be clear by now that no one in the war has had a monopoly of anguish and that no one in these debates has had a monopoly of moral in sight.”

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