Gromyko Says USSR Favors Early Resumption of Geneva Talks with PLO Participation; Criticizes Israel

Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko told the General Assembly today that the Soviet Union favors the early reconvening of the Geneva conference with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization but charged that Israel’s policies are the main obstacle toward that goal. “It appears the Israeli statesmen would not bring themselves to climb a step higher, would not bring themselves closer to common sense and abandon their plans for expansion at the expense of other countries and peoples,” Gromyko said.

The Soviet Foreign Minister spoke on the second day of general debate in which the assembled diplomats outline the foreign policies of their respective countries. Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, speaking to reporters after a 90-minute meeting with UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, said that while he was “very pleased” with Israel’s acceptance of a pan-Arab delegation at the Geneva conference, the conditions attached by Israel “do not accurately reflect our views.”

He said he shared the Israeli view that “there should be bilateral discussions” at Geneva between the Israelis and individual Arab delegations “but as to the other conditions, there are differences between us.” He did not specify what the differences were.

Vance noted that “some of the parties” had said that there would be no checking of credentials and there should be no well-known PLO members at Geneva. Israel has categorically ruled out any PLO presence but conceded it could not check the Palestinians for pro-PLO sympathies. Vance said the U.S. position was that if the PLO accepted Resolution 242, the U.S. would talk to the PLO, but whether PLO people were admitted to Geneva depended on agreement by all of the parties to the conference. State Department spokesman Hodding Carter told reporters last night “I think we believe we’re going to have a Geneva conference before the end of the year.”

AFFIRMS ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST

Gromyko’s address did not contain the usual polemics but was nevertheless severe toward Israel. He said that the USSR, as co-chairman of the Geneva conference, would do “its best to have it convened and work successfully and expects the other co-chairman, the U.S., to follow this line, too.”

He declared that the Soviet Union reiterates once again “that Israel has a right to exist as an independent, sovereign state in the Middle East,” adding that “On behalf of the Soviet leadership, I will say again that we have adhered and will continue to adhere to precisely that line.” But Gromyko also said: “We have been and remain advocates of the right cause of the Arabs whose lands have been unlawfully taken away and are still retained by the force of arms. Those lands must unconditionally be returned to the Arab peoples.”

Gromyko asked, “Why shouldn’t Israel take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself and agree to a genuinely just settlement in the Middle East? This would, after all, be in its own national interests, too.” He warned that the Middle East is the most dangerous hot-bed of war in the world and declared that as long as Israel did not withdraw from the Arab lands it seized in 1967 and as long as the rights of the Arab people of Palestine, “including its right to self-determination and the creation of a state of its own” are not fulfilled, there can be no durable peace in the region.

Gromyko said that “serious apprehensions are aroused by the words and deeds of the leadership of Israel. They are well known. A great deal of inflammable material has been accumulated in the Middle East. In the event of another outbreak of hostilities no one would be able to predict its outcome.”

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