UNITED NATIONS (Dec. 17)
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger left Israel today after successfully persuading its government to set aside mounting reservations over the Geneva peace conference and agree to attend the opening session now scheduled for Friday. At the end of a visit of barely 21 hours which included more than 10 hours of intensive closed-door discussions with Israeli leaders, Kissinger was able to announce “complete agreement about procedures and terms of reference of the opening of the conference.” This was confirmed by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban who announced that Premier Golda Meir had requested him to proceed to Geneva to head the Israeli delegation.
Kissinger and Eban who accompanied him to Lod Airport this afternoon, used such words as “warmth,” ” friendship” and “harmony” to describe the meetings which began in Jerusalem shortly after Kissinger’s arrival late yesterday, continued well into the night and were resumed for four hours this morning. Kissinger gave assurances that at Geneva “the United States will maintain the closest contact with the government of Israel throughout the negotiations.” Both he and Eban, as they shook hands, said they looked forward to meeting again in Geneva at the end of the week.
Exactly what transpired during the intensive round of talks in Jerusalem and at a midnight-to-3 a.m. Cabinet meeting was not disclosed, Israel’s hesitation over the Geneva conference was at tribute to concern that it would become a UN controlled event and thus weighted in favor of the Arabs. There was also the serious problem of Syria’s refusal to comply with the Geneva protocols on prisoners of war; fear that a Palestinian delegation might be given representation at the last minute; and apprehension over indications that Egypt sought to turn the talks into a forum on Israeli withdrawal rather than a genuine peace conference.
Kissinger apparently succeeded in allaying some or most Israeli fears. But there were indications that he and the Israeli leaders still do not see eye to eye on all matters. In his remarks at Lod Airport, Kissinger stated specifically, “We also agreed that the opening phase of the conference should be over the problem of the separation of forces,” meaning the disengagement of Israeli and Egyptian forces along the Suez cease-fire lines. Eban confirmed this, but went on to remark that the problem of separation of forces will be taken up some time after Jan. 1,1974, following the Israeli elections which take place Dec, 31. Kissinger, however, seemed to regard the “opening phase” as that which will take place next Friday, Dec. 21 and last for one or two days. That is also, apparently, the Egyptian view.
Kissinger obviously did not bring with him from Damascus the list of Israeli POWs in Syrian hands. Asked about Israel’s decision not to participate in any aspect of the Geneva talks that include Syria until the Syrians comply fully with the Geneva Convention, Eban said the Israeli attitude had not changed, but because of the “humanitarian aspects” of the problem he would not elaborate. The POW issue, however, is very much in the minds of Israelis. About 20 persons, parents and relatives Office in Jerusalem as Kissinger emerged from his talks with Mrs, Meir this afternoon, Shivering in the cold, they raised signs reading, “Bring Our Boys Home From Syria”; “Prisoners Are Not Hostages”; and “Kissinger, Keep Your Promise.” Some of the demonstrators claimed that the Foreign Ministry had promised them a meeting with Kissinger. There was no confirmation from Ministry sources.