JERUSALEM (Sep. 3)
United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim wound up his five-nation Middle East tour in Amman today no less pessimistic than when he began it a week ago over prospects for an immediate solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The UN leader made it plain, in statements during his 31-hour visit to Israel last Thursday and his stay yesterday in Cairo that he could perceive no break in the impasse.
Waldheim repeatedly stressed the enormity of the effort required to bring about Middle East peace, maintained that the UN was ready and, able to play an important part in that endeavor and said he was convinced that all parties sincerely desired peace. But he reiterated to newsmen at all his stops that he brought no fresh proposals and had received none from the government leaders with whom he met.
Waldheim stated in Israel and repeated again in Cairo that the peace-seeking mission of his special Mideast representative. Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring was still valid and said he would meet with him to discuss the findings of his trip. In his Cairo reference to the Jarring mission, the Secretary General also observed that Dr. Jarring’s memoranda of Feb. 8, 1971–asking Egypt for a commitment to make peace with Israel and Israel for a commitment to withdraw to its pre-June. 1967 borders–was still valid.
Israel’s rejection of the Jarring memorandum resulted in suspension of the UN mediator’s mission. Israeli leaders, nevertheless, expressed satisfaction with Waldheim’s visit insofar as it enabled them to convey to him the Israeli point of view in the Middle East conflict.
Foreign Minister Abba Eban, briefing the Cabinet yesterday, said the Secretary General had stressed that his mission was not intended to offer new proposals but to learn the views of Israeli leaders. “I believe that this goal was achieved,” the Foreign Minister said.
ISRAEL RAISES A NUMBER OF ISSUES
During Waldheim’s stay here he held two working sessions with Premier Golda Meir and lengthy talks with Eban. He described his talks with Israeli leaders as “very fruitful” but declined to say, on his departure, in what way he thought they were helpful toward a Middle East solution. He said he would be in a position to formulate an opinion as to the best way the UN could help only after his Mideast tour was completed.
The topics raised by the Israeli leaders with Waldheim, it was learned, included Arab terrorism, the plight of Jews in Syrin and Iraq and Soviet Jewry. The Israeli leaders also expressed resentment over the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) condemnation of Israel in Rome last week and complained in general of anti-Israel bias and one-sided treatment within the UN.
Waldheim was told by his Israeli hosts that they regarded Egypt to be solely responsible for obstructing efforts to reach an interim settlement with Israel to reopen the Suez Canal. They blamed suspension of the Jarring mission on the Swedish diplomat’s attempt to impose a solution which was outside the scope of his original mandate based on the Security Council Resolution 242.
The Israelis also raised a matter of immediate concern–a POW exchange with Egypt. Egypt holds 10 Israeli POWs, most of them pilots shot down before the Aug. 1970 cease-fire. Israel has more than 50 Egyptian POWs. Waldheim was apparently asked to raise the issue with Egyptian leaders in Cairo who so far have refused Israel’s request for an exchange of prisoners. The Secretary General stressed throughout his Mideast trip that Security Council Resolution 242 remained the basis for a solution.
TWO DIPLOMATIC SLIPS EXPLAINED
His reception was friendly though low-keyed in every country he visited. Heavy security precautions attended his stay in Jerusalem. His visit there was marred slightly by his refusal to don a skull cap when he entered the Yad Vashem memorial to place a wreath on the marker memorializing six million Jews who perished under the Nazis. A spokesman for the Secretary General issued a statement afterwards that Waldheim, a Catholic, had not been informed of the significance of wearing headgear during the religious portion of the ceremonies at the Yad Vashem. His head was covered when he visited a synagogue later in his tour.
Waldheim’s visit also made it clear that the UN still does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This came about at a dinner before Waldheim’s departure, given by. Eban. The Secretary General thanked his hosts for the warmth and hospitality shown him. “We are very happy,” he said, “to be in your beautiful country and in your capital.”
Eban said later that the use of the phrase, “your capital,” was not inadvertent. But a spokesman for Waldheim said that a remark made over a glass of wine cannot be interpreted in any way as a change in the official stand and attitude of the UN toward Jerusalem and its status.