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Push on in Security Council to Enhance Political Stature of PLO

A rapid succession of events at the Security Council over the past 24 hours appeared to be pointing the Middle East debate in a direction that will enhance the political stature of the Palestine Liberation Organization and make it a full-fledged partner in future peace negotiations.

Three counties that frequently align with the United States on Middle Eastern issues–France, Sweden and Japan–indicated during the Council debate yesterday that they supported a negotiating role for the PLO and felt Israel should reconcile itself to dealing with it by reversing its boycott of the current Council sessions and agreeing to talk to the PLO at future peace forums.

The Soviet Union rejected the step-by-step approach and urged the early resumption of the Geneva conference with the full participation of the PLO. At the same time, the PLO and four Arab states–Egypt. Syria, Jordan and Libya–were at work on draft resolutions that would demand Israel’s withdrawal from “all” occupied Arab territories and put the Security Council on record in recognition of the “inalienable” rights of the Palestinian people.

TWO FOLD EFFECT

If such resolutions were to be adopted, the effect on Resolution 242 would be two-fold: Its deliberate ambiguity on Israel’s withdrawal from “territories” would be amended in favor of the Arab-Soviet interpretation; and its general reference to a solution of the refugee problem would be replaced by as affirmation that the Palestinians comprise a political entity.

The presentation of these draft resolutions to the Council has been delayed by reported divisions among the drafters, not on their substance but on the tone of the language. Egypt is said to prefer a moderately worded draft that the U.S. could not say impaired progress toward peace and thus would find difficult to veto. Syria, Libya and the PLO appear to be unconcerned with the American reaction, although a hard-line draft would be almost certain to incur a veto and therefore defeat the purported Arab purpose to gain clear cut recognition of the PLO as a negotiating partner.

CAUTION AGAINST ONE-SIDED RESOLUTIONS

France, Sweden and Japan have in fact cautioned the Arabs that a one-sided draft reflecting an extreme position would be blocked by the U.S. and that they themselves would have difficulty supporting it although they sympathized with the Palestinian cause. But the positions taken by the three Ambassadors were seen by observers as supportive of the Arab aim to have the Palestinians issue recognized as a national and political one rather a solely humanitarian matter involving the alleviation of the refugee problem.

The Frency envoy, Louis de Guildingaud, said in the debate yesterday that the Council had “a responsibility to reconcile” the rights of the Palestinians to a “homeland” while insuring “that the State of Israel can co-exist peacefully with all its neighbors.” He also called for Israel’s withdrawal from territories taken from the Arabs in 1967 and, while welcoming the PLO’s participation in the debate, urged it to provide explicit views on the prospective Palestinian homeland.

Olof Rydbeck, the Ambassador of Sweden, said the “interests and rights” of the Palestinians had to be given sufficient consideration. He termed the PLO “the most authoritative spokesman for the Palestinian Arabs.” Ambassador Shizuo Saito, of Japan, urged recognition of the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” and observed that the Palestine problem was no longer simply a question of refugees. He stopped short of endorsing PLO participation at the Geneva conference but said that “Israel and the PLO should conduct a dialogue in whatever form it might be.”

In a similar vein. British Ambassador Ivor Richard stated that Israel has to take into account Palestinian nationalist sentiment. “It is not enough simply to express willingness to find a solution,” he said. But he added that “one-sided actions” must be avoided in order to create “that climate of confidence necessary for successful negotiations.” He called for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. The envoys urged Israel to join the current Security Council debate and said they endorsed secure borders for Israel.

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