UNITED NATIONS (Sep. 24)
Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko declared today that the Soviet Union “stands in favor of Israel existing and developing as an independent sovereign state” and indicated that Russia would resume diplomatic relations with Israel if “real, not illusory progress” is made toward a Middle East settlement.
Addressing the 29th annual session of the General Assembly, Gromyko claimed that the Soviet Union’s position in the Middle East cannot be considered one-sided because it supports “the legitimate demands of the Arabs.” He said the Soviet attitude in the Mideast “reflects intolerance of aggression in general.” Gromyko said that “real, not illusory progress” toward a Middle East settlement “will create prerequisites for the development of relations between the Soviet Union and all the states of the Middle East, including Israel.”
PROMPT RESUMPTION OF GENEVA PEACE TALKS
Gromyko urged the prompt resumption of the Genera peace conference which he described as “the most appropriate forum for considering the Middle East’s problems.” He said the time has come for deeds rather than words “to assure the legitimate rights of the Arab people in Palestine” who “must take their rightful place at the (Geneva) conference.”
Observers here were quick to note the moderate tone toward Israel taken by the Soviet Foreign Minister, in sharp contrast to his previous anti-Israel and anti-Zionist diatribes at the UN. But Gromyko nevertheless took some swipes at the Israelis. He reiterated Soviet demands that Israel withdraw from all the Arab lands seized in 1967. He contended that Israel regards the disengagement accords with Syria and Egypt “as a maneuver intended to freeze the situation” and that Israel intends to hold on to the Arab territories.
RIGHTS OF ‘ARAB PEOPLE OF PALESTINE’
Gromyko warned that unless the “legitimate national rights of the Arab people of Palestine” are secured “there can be no stable peace in the Middle East.” He added that “It takes no prophet to foresee a new flare-up of hostilities If a Middle East settlement should be reduced to half-measures no matter how well advertised.”
Speaking on the Palestine question, Gromyko said. “A wider approach is required here which would open the way to assure not in words but in deeds the legitimate rights of the Arab people of Palestine.” He said that was the reason the Soviet Union was in favor of including the Palestine Question as a separate Item on the agenda of the General Assembly. Gromyko lauded detente. He said that, on the whole. International events have now been turned closer to peace.
CHANGE OF TONE NOTED
Commenting on the Soviet Foreign Minister’s remarks on the Middle East, diplomatic sources here singled out the fact that there was a change of tone though no departure from the traditional Soviet policy on the Mideast. They said the fact that Gromyko spoke unequivocally for the right of Israel to exist was somehow different from past reaffirmations by the Soviets of the rights of all parties in the region. The sources also observed that this was the first time Russia has spoken publicly on the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel, even though that was made conditional on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.
(See P. 2 for related UN stories.)