PARIS (Aug. 5)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy met here today with French Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues for the first session of the joint Franco-Egyptian commission designed to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Tomorrow Fahmy is due to meet with French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac.
Officially, the Egyptian minister is here to discuss increased Franco-Egyptian economic and technical cooperation. Actually, the talks, according to reliable sources are dominated by the Middle East political situation.
According to these sources, Egypt is eager to find out if the new French government intends to continue the pro-Arab policy carried out under late President Georges Pompidou. The new government, in power since May, has not yet clearly defined its position and Egypt apparently fears possible changes in its Middle East attitude.
SUSPICIOUS OF PRO-ISRAEL MINISTERS
Arab suspicions were aroused by the new government’s silence on this subject and by the presence in the Cabinet of five ministers, including Minister of interior Michel Poniatovsky, known for their pro-Israeli sympathies. Another of these ministers is Minister of Justice Jean Lecannuet who has often in the past publicly opposed France’s pro-Arab policy which he described “one-sided and not balanced.”
Fahmy is also expected to confer with French officials on France’s and Western Europe’s possible roles in the coming stages of the settlement of the Middle East crisis, especially within the framework of the Geneva conference.
Political circles here say that Fahmy has also raised the Palestinian question. Arab diplomats say that the Egyptian minister will also ask France to take the lead in “turning West European declarations of support of the Arab cause into concrete acts.” Arab League Secretary-General Mahmoud Riad called for such acts at the end of the European-Arab dialogue which took place here last week.
SADAT HAS MESSAGE FOR GISCARD D’ESTAING
French circles also say that the two ministers, Fahmy and Sauvagnargues, will also try to improve Franco-Egyptian relations which have reportedly cooled off in recent months. According to authoritative French sources, Paris was “hurt” at the brusk way in which Cairo “forgot its West European ties and turned to Washington for advice and help.”
The French also resented the fact that earlier this year Fahmy visited Washington and a number of European capitals but avoided consultations in Paris. The Egyptians, on the other hand felt that Paris was not giving them the political backing which they expected and did not try and play an active role at the Geneva peace conference.
Fahmy will hand over to Giscard d’Estaing a personal message from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when he will meet with him tomorrow morning at the Elysee Palace.