Eban Predicts Long Peace Conference Similar to Vietnam Talks

Foreign Minister Abba Eban predicted last night that the Middle East peace conference in Geneva would be a prolonged process, somewhat like the Vietnam peace talks in Paris. He said that Israel expects a formal invitation to the conference today or tomorrow from U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. The American diplomat is expected to visit Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia before the peace talks begin. Addressing a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Eban said the opening session at Geneva Dec. 18 would probably be devoted to wide ranging policy statements by the representatives of the participating nations and then would adjourn because of Israel’s impending elections. Eban said that according to Kissinger, that would not be the formal reason for the adjournment.

He urged his audience not to underestimate the importance of the opening session. It would, in fact, bring the institution of a peace conference into being and that of itself was a significant mile stone, Eban said. In reply to a question, the Foreign Minister flatly rejected a suggestion that Kissinger was “selling Israel out.” Eban disclosed that Israel had written to Kissinger congratulating him on his six-point cease-fire stabilization agreement which Israel and Egypt signed Nov. 11. He described that document as a “fantastic achievement” and said that when Israeli leaders first learned of its terms from Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco they were “euphoric.”

Well placed sources said here yesterday that when the invitation to the peace conference arrives, Israel’s first move would be to determine who the other participants would be. Kissinger’s intention has been for the conference to be attended by Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria with the participation of the U.S. and the Soviet Union and a United Nations presence represented by Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.

There have been reports of Soviet pressure for the inclusion of a Palestinian delegation to which Israel, Jordan and the U.S. are opposed. Israel is on record as objecting to any peace talks with terrorist leaders such as Yassir Arafat, head of El Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization or George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But Israel would have no objections if Palestinian leaders from either Jordan or the West Bank were included in the Jordanian delegation as spokesmen for the Palestinian cause, sources here said. Meanwhile, the Arab summit conference in Algiers has recognized the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinians. That move was seen here as complicating the peace conference and a serious rebuff to King Hussein of Jordan who boycotted the Arab summit.

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