WASHINGTON (Jan. 31)
–Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance today reaffirmed long standing United States policy regarding the Palestine Liberation Organization by saying neither he nor any U.S. designated official will meet with the terrorist group under present circumstances.
“It is difficult to see how progress can be made,” on the Palestine question. Vance said, since the PLO up to this point has refused the right of Israel to exist or recognize the framework of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. However, he added, “we continue to believe recognition of the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people will be critical to any peaceful settlement.”
Responding to questions at his first news conference at the State Department. Vance said that “there are a number of views among the parties” regarding the Palestinian issue and he expected to discuss them with the Middle East leaders on his weeklong trip to Israel and five Arab countries beginning Feb. 14. He hinted he has his own views too but would not reveal them at present.
1977 IS A CRITICAL YEAR
Vance said 1977 is a “critical year” in the Middle East settlement process since “all parties have indicated willingness” to proceed “promptly” to Geneva. “If this is allowed to drag out and we do not proceed” then “all kinds of disruptive factors may occur.”
However, he cautioned, “it would be foolhardy” to hold a conference “until the groundwork is thoroughly explored and plans arrived at so there is a realistic chance of a constructive solution”. He declined to suggest a “deadline” for a conference date.
Asked about the impact on Israel. Iran and Saudi Arabia of President Carter’s move to reduce the flow of U.S. arms abroad. Vance said the Administration has not yet discussed the effect on the individual countries but he called it “a terribly important issue.” As the largest seller of arms, he said, the U.S. has a responsibility to put “our own house in order and then work with other nations to develop programs.”
Vance met over the weekend with United Nations Secretary Kurt Waldheim who starts his own 10-day visit to the Mideast tonight.
Waldheim said in an interview on ABC-TV’s “Issues and Answers” yesterday that in his meeting with Vance he found “that there is a great willingness on the side of the United States to cooperate with the United Nations in regard to a Middle East solution.” He said there is “no competition between him and Vance” in their separate trips to the region. Waldheim emphasized that “we cannot impose a solution” in the Mideast but “if we are unable to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiating process this year,” he feared another Middle East war within two years.