Vance, Waldheim Agree on Most Issues Affecting the Middle East

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim both declined to say yesterday which leaders in Arab governments recognize Israel’s sovereignty. They also agreed that “the most practical time” for a Geneva conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict would be in the “latter half of this year.” Their statements came as they stood side-by-side in the State Department lobby after concluding a meeting of more than two hours that completed Waldheim’s two-day official visit to Washington.

When the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked whether during their separate Mideast visits they had found that “any Arab governmental leader has recognized Israel as a viable, independent Jewish State.” Vance replied, “the answer is yes.” Waldheim interpolated “I can support that statement.” The JTA asked the two diplomats to name those Arab leaders. “I prefer not to.” Vance replied. “I will let them speak for themselves.”

Vance and Waldheim, when asked whether they had reached an agreement or understanding on the procedural process for the Geneva conference, seemed to indicate a meeting of minds had not taken place. Vance said they had exchanged ideas and Waldheim pointed out “a lot of preparatory work is still needed in the next few weeks and months.” President Carter will meet with Middle East leaders starting with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin early in March in Washington.

Waldheim, who has received an unprecedented official welcome from Carter, told a press conference Friday that in his meeting at the White House with Carter “no agreement was reached on the Middle East” and “therefore the question” of the PLO is open. Asked whether the PLO should be invited to the Geneva conference. Waldheim replied that “the Palestinian dimension is of crucial importance.”

Later, he noted that the PLO was “nominated” at the Rabat conference of Arab states as the “sole spokesman” of the Palestinians and that it was recognized by the UN General Assembly. However, he agreed that the UN has not conducted a plebiscite among Palestinians on whom they want as their leader.

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