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Ford Indicates Differences Between U.S. USSR on Mideast Were Not Narrowed During Summit Talks

President Ford indicated at his press conference here last night that differences between the United States and the Soviet Union on approaches to Mideast peace negotiations had not been narrowed in his Vladivostok talks with Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev.

Ford said the talks had brought about “a higher degree of understanding” about each country’s position on negotiations. The United States favors step-by-step bilateral talks between Israel and the Arab states while the Soviet Union wants resumption of the Geneva peace conference, for which it is co-sponsor with the United States, which met briefly last December and not since.

The President made his comment in response to a question as to whether he and Brezhnev had discussed “some kind of trade-off whereby Israel would deal with the PLO and the PLO would recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state.”

Ford replied, “We didn’t get into that detail.” He added that “Israel has indicated that it would not negotiate with the PLO” and that “we have no way of forcing them to do so.” His talks with Brezhnev on the Middle East, he said. involved discussion of “our position and their position, and. as we discussed it, I think we came to a higher degree of agreement in that our position was understood by them and the prospects of the Geneva agreement was understood by us.”