WASHINGTON (May. 11)
Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisco told an audience of prominent Arab-Americans here that the United States will “continue its friendship for the Arabs” and “is determined to continue its support for Israel’s security” in pursuit of a policy “not inconsistent” with American interests. He also declared that the United States will not recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization because as long as the PLO “pursues a policy of non-recognition it is perceived in our country as a group not yet ready to proceed on the basis of recognition of Israel.”
Sisco spoke Friday at a luncheon that marked the second day of the four-day third annual conference of the National Association of Arab Americans at the Shoreham Hotel, attended by approximately 30 persons. The audience included I.L. Kenen who recently retired as head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; Ira Silverman, director of the Institute for Jewish Policy, Planning and Research of the Synagogue Council of America; and reporters for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Israeli news media.
Sisco, the No, 2 man at the State Department who is directly in charge of the current reassessment of American Middle East policy ordered by President Ford after the suspension of bilateral Israeli-Egyptian talks in March, refused to give any hint of what course future U.S. policy would take. He asserted, however, that “We have got to find the way to a fresh thrust” toward a peaceful solution in the Middle East. “We will remain engaged” in that effort, Sisco said, “regardless of the circumstances. To do otherwise would not serve the interests of the U.S. or the cause of peace generally.”
Sisco said that “all diplomatic options” are being studied. He said he had discerned “an important psychological change” in the direction of reconciliation during his recent visits to the Middle East accompanying Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger on his last round of shuttle diplomacy. “All you have to do is walk in the streets of Cairo, Damascus, Amman and Jerusalem” to find “yearning for peace,” he said, adding, “That does represent a fundamental change in the area.”
TRYING TO BE HELPFUL TO BOTH SIDES
He said the U.S. government is “trying to be helpful to both sides.” He pointed to the “special relationship” with Israel and said that for the past 18 months–since the Yom Kippur War–the U.S. has been “trying to pursue a middle man’s role in diplomacy–impartially–because the Arabs and Israel wanted us” to serve that way, Sisco said the U.S. has “very consciously” avoided pronouncements in the last several years on “substantive views on an overall settlement.”
He noted that Israel and the principal Arab states have accepted Security Council Resolution 242 “as the framework for a just peace” though he acknowledged the “obvious differences in interpretations” of the resolution by the Arabs and Israel. “If there is a shift to Geneva, the U.S. will have to consider the overall approach to an overall settlement” but “I am not here pronouncing anything one way or another.” Sisco said.
Sisco’s remarks were heard in silence and he received short polite applause when he concluded. He drew cheers and a standing ovation, however, when the Association’s president, Richard C. Shadyac, a Washington lawyer, praised the “candor of his remarks” and observed that “for the first time the Number Two man at the State Department has come public with an Arab-American group.”