JERUSALEM (Feb. 10)
United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim arrived here today to a courteous but cool reception, Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, who greeted him at Atarot Airport, said only a few days ago that Israel rejected a UN mediating role in the Middle East Conflict. The Secretary General’s two-day visit to Israel, part of a tour of Middle East countries, is considered to be of little importance here and is overshadowed by the approaching visit of U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance.
Israelis feel that Waldheim has already displayed insensitivity by beginning his Mideast tour with a meeting with PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Damascus and with another PLO representative, Farouk Kaddumi this week. The fact that he chose to land at Atarot Airport, in what was formerly Jordanian territory, rather than at Ben Gurion Airport, has also offended some sensibilities.
Waldheim insisted, however, that his choice of a landing field has no political significance and was merely a matter of convenience. In addition to Allon he was greeted at the airport by Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, commander of UN peace-keeping forces in the Mideast. Later in the day Waldheim met with Premier Yitzhak Rabin.
Waldheim said on his arrival that he did not come here as a mediator but rather as the UN Secretary General. He said it was important to talk to all parties in the region in an attempt to effect a renewal of negotiations for a peace settlement. Israel, however, has ruled out a UN role in this process and has said that the U.S. is the only country that can serve as a mediator.