Kissinger Says Conditions for Mideast Progress ‘better’ Than in Many Years

Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger said today that “conditions for progress” toward peace in the Middle East “are better than they have been in many years.” He made that remark and elaborated on it in reply to questions after delivering his “valedictory address” at a National Press Club luncheon. Kissinger leaves office when the Carter Administration is inaugurated Jan. 20.

The outgoing Secretary was asked whether the Middle East “is really closer to a solution of the Israeli, Palestinian and other issues that have so long plagued it” and whether the region “has been eliminated as a likely area of Soviet-American confrontation and conflict.”

Kissinger replied that. “The Middle East has obviously not been eliminated as a source of conflict.” But he stressed that conditions there have improved greatly since 1973 when “the Arab world and Israel were engaged in a war at the end of which the danger of a new flare-up was extremely great.”

He noted that then the U.S. “had no diplomatic relations with the key Arab countries except Saudi Arabia and Jordan” and often “had to send messages to Cairo and Damascus via Moscow.” He said that “what was needed was to re-establish some relationships with the Arab world, to maintain our traditional friendship with Israel” while moving the area toward peace.

TO SPEAK IN NEW YORK

Kissinger claimed that “We are now approaching the point where conditions in the Middle East for significant progress seem to us sufficient.” He asserted that “Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia. Jordan are all committed to progress toward a peace which recognizes the existence and legitimacy of the State of Israel. The radical elements in the area no longer have the influence that they possessed some years ago. I believe that negotiations will be extremely complicated and it may take some time, but I do believe the conditions for progress are better than they have been in many years.” Kissinger said.

(Kissinger will address a farewell luncheon tomorrow on his behalf at the Pierre Hotel in New York given by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz is also scheduled to speak.)

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