U.S. Seen Moving Closer Toward Involving the PLO in Mideast Talks

The United States has taken what appears to be an additional step toward involving the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East diplomatic process by proposing to the Soviet Union that “the matter of participation” in negotiations for an “overall settlement” in that region be discussed by the six nations that are parties to the Geneva conference.

The proposal was contained in the U.S. reply to the Soviet note of Nov. 9 calling for the early reconvening of the Geneva conference. The State Department released the text of the reply today which states that “as a practical way of proceeding, the U.S. proposes a preparatory conference of those who have participated so far in negotiations looking toward a settlement within the Geneva conference framework.”

The American note said that “In addition to the U.S. and the Soviet Union (co-chairmen of the Geneva conference) such a preparatory conference could include Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Israel and could consider agenda, procedures and the matter of participation in a subsequent full conference with a view toward laying the foundations for negotiation of an overall settlement.” The U.S. also said it was “prepared to consider holding bilateral consultations with the USSR in advance of such a preparatory conference.”

LEGITIMATE PALESTINIAN INTERESTS NOTED

The American note pointed out “with respect to the Soviet position on Palestinian participation in the Geneva conference, the U.S. has always held the view that legitimate Palestinian interests must be taken into account in an overall settlement. The U.S. cannot agree, however, that the cochairman of the conference can alter the definition of participants in the conference initially agreed to by the original participants.”

The U.S. added that its view was that “the appropriate UN resolutions to serve as a basis for negotiations leading toward a peace settlement and the ones which the parties have accepted for this purpose are Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. It would therefore not be appropriate to introduce other resolutions not accepted by all the parties for this purpose.”

The latter statement appeared to be a reference to the General Assembly’s Nov. 10 resolution inviting PLO participation in all UN-sponsored peace forums on the Middle East. Since the six original Geneva conference nations are all that are allowed under the Security Council resolutions, the question arose here as to why “the matter of participation” in the subsequent full conference was proposed as an agenda item for the suggested preparatory conference in the American reply to Moscow.

Observers suggested that the preparatory conference, in line with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s proposal before the General Assembly two months ago, was seen as a means of bringing Israel into a meeting at which it would be subjected to severe pressures aimed at eliciting its agreement to PLO participation at Geneva, seemingly as an expression of its own free will.

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