BONN (Jan. 3)
West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is launching a major and significant bid to involve Western Europe in the search for a Mideast peace solution. In the last week of 1976 Genscher surprised political observers by unexpectedly calling separate talks with the ambassadors of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Syria.
He also announced he would visit Damascus and Amman in February, and Israel later. Government sources hinted, too, that Genscher would unveil suggestions for a positive Mideast peace role for the European Economic Community (EEC) when the Community’s ministers meet in London this month. The sources stressed that any EEC contribution would have to be made after prior consultation–and in coordination–with the U.S. government.
At this stage it is not clear whether Genscher has concrete proposals for a detailed peace agreement, or whether, as seems more likely, he is merely trying to define what the EEC can do to help the Mideast countries themselves to thrash out those details and to provide EEC guarantees for an eventual settlement.
Certainly his Mideast travels will enable him to sound out the different positions of the opposing parties. Because of its strong economic ties and good relations with both the Arabs and Israelis and the U.S., Germany is in an exceptionally good position to act as go-between.
WANTS WELL-LAID BASIS FOR GENEVA TALKS
Sources say Genscher is particularly anxious that any future Geneva peace talks should be well prepared so that major obstacles are identified and resolved beforehand. Apart from Genscher’s itinerary, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi is due to visit Germany this spring, and both former Chancellor Willy Brandt and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt are understood to be planning visits to Israel this year.
Sources say the initiative was motivated by recent “peace signals” in speeches by various Arab leaders, and by Saudi Arabia’s “moderate” role in the recent Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ oil-pricing decisions. Germany imports 95 percent of its oil requirements and two-thirds of these oil imports are from Arab producing countries.
Some observers also think Genscher–an ambitious politician–is seeking to fill the vacuum created by U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s departure from international diplomacy. However, government sources categorically reject this view.