JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
Israel lodged a stiff protest with the French government about three weeks ago when it first learned that Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues would meet with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, officials disclosed here last night They made the disclosure as Sauvagnargues and Arafat met for two hours in Beirut yesterday. It was the first time Arafat or any Palestinian leader met with a Western official of ministerial rank
Israel had informed the French Foreign Office that it viewed the planned meeting as an unfriendly act, officials here said. Last week, the Foreign Ministry issued a blistering condemnation of France and other European countries that voted in the United Nations General Assembly to invite the PLO to participate in the Assembly’s debate on the Palestine Question next month.
Sauvagnargues is due to arrive in Israel Oct. 30 for a three-day official visit during which he will confer with Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. He is also expected to pay a courtesy call on President Ephraim Katzir. He will be the first French Foreign Minister ever to visit Israel.
ASSAIL PRAISE OF PLO LEADER
Israelis today were particularly incensed by Sauvagnargues’ remark in Beirut after his meeting with Arafat yesterday that the PLO chieftain “is turning into a statesman with political aims.” He added that in France’s view this tendency should be encouraged and the Palestinians should realize that they “seek political solutions and thus give up their methods of violence.” The French diplomat also stressed that France and Western Europe believed that no solution to the Middle East conflict was possible without the Palestinians “who will have to play a role in any settlement and whose rights must be recognized.”
He added that he hoped to dispel any “misunderstanding in Israel” about his meeting with Arafat when he arrives in Jerusalem. Some observers here and abroad believe the Sauvagnargues-Arafat meeting marked an important step in the recognition of the Palestinians as a national force to be reckoned with and suggested that the Beirut meeting was more important to the Palestinian cause than even the invitation to participate in the General Assembly debate.
Reports from Paris yesterday quoting well informed sources said President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, shortly after his election, ordered his Interior Minister, Michel Poniatovsky, to develop direct contacts with the PLO. Poniatovsky, who is Giscard’s closest political advisor, was chosen for the task because he is known to hold strong pro-Israel sympathies, the sources said, and therefore could not be accused of working against Israel’s interests.
The French Foreign Minister met with King Hussein of Jordan in Amman today. He reportedly told Hussein that France shares Jordan’s view that Israel should withdraw from all occupied Arab territories, including the West Bank and that it supported the Palestinian Arabs’ right to self-determination as well as Israel’s right to exist within secure, recognized borders.