France Begins Negotiating for Israel

Israel officially asked France today to negotiate on its behalf for release of the hostages held in Uganda by the Air France hijackers and said it was ready to discuss the release of some Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel. Israel’s position was conveyed by Ambassador Mordechai Gazit who visited the Foreign Ministry here this morning.

A communique issued by the Israeli Embassy said “Israel is ready to start negotiations with the French government in order to obtain the liberation of the hostages detained in Uganda against the liberation of prisoners in Israel.” This decision was made known less than two hours before the 3 p.m. (Uganda time) (noon GMT) deadline set by the hijackers.

It was understood that negotiations have already begun in a round-about way. Israel is communicating with France, the French with Uganda President Idi Amin and Amin with the hijackers at Entebbe Airport. Israel’s first offer, the contents of which were not disclosed, was relayed to the hijackers by the French Ambassador, Pierre Renard, who met with Amin in Kampala today.

It was learned that France has undertaken a number of diplomatic steps to bring pressure to bear on the hijackers and the Ugandan government. President Valery Giscard d’Estaing has taken up the matter with President Mobutu of Zaire and with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. West Germany holds a number of Palestinian terrorists whose release has been demanded. Giscard also sent a personal letter to PLO leader Yasir Arafat and another to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy. The nature of the letters was not disclosed.

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