Eec Leaders Expected to Discuss Mideast at Their Council Meeting

The Prime Ministers of the nine member countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) are expected to discuss the Middle East when they hold their Council meeting here Wednesday and Thursday. There is growing speculation that they will, at last, issue a joint statement about the conflict.

At previous sessions in the past six months at Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers levels, the EEC has refused to come out with its own Middle East policy statement, although it has been urged to do so by some of its members–notably France and Italy–and by the Arab states. Instead, it has concurred with the British view that a separate EEC initiative would be neither necessary nor helpful as long as American diplomatic efforts were making satisfactory progress.

However, President Carter’s own practice of “thinking aloud” on the Middle East and the adamant refusal of the new Israeli government to give up the West Bank and Gaza Strip have introduced new factors. Observers here believe that while it will not launch its own separate initiative, the EEC may decide to endorse publicly President Carter’s calls for a Palestinian “homeland” and for mutual Israel-Palestinian recognition.

Diplomatic circles here suspect that the planned EEC move may lie behind the postponement of the visit to Israel by Dr. David Owen, the British Foreign Secretary. He was to have gone to Jerusalem at the beginning of next month. The Foreign Office now says that he will go when it is “convenient,” pointing out that he is busy with other matters, such as Rhodesia.

This week’s EEC Council meeting in London will be the last during Britain’s six-month tenure of the Presidency of the Community, which may be another factor in persuading Britain to permit a joint EEC statement on the Middle East.

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