WASHINGTON (Oct. 12)
President Carter said today that he was “pleased” with the Israeli Cabinet’s approval of a working paper out-lining the route to a Middle East peace conference at Geneva. But the State Department, which last night also welcomed the Israeli government’s move, observed today that the issue of Palestinian representation and other “outstanding” questions remain to be resolved. “These are tough questions to be discussed with all the parties,” Assistant Secretary of State Hodding Carter, the Department’s chief spokesman, told reporters at a briefing this morning.
The President made his comments to reporters after bidding farewell to Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief of State of Nigeria. Asked about the Israeli decision, he said, “I’m pleased with that,” adding, “We don’t know yet about the private concerns on the part of the Israelis and we’re consulting constantly with the Arab nations as well.
Hodding Carter told newsmen that the Israel approved working paper was being transmitted through diplomatic channels to Egypt, Jordan and Syria as “the governments concerned in the first, in stance in making peace with Israel.” He indicated that Lebanon and Saudi Arabia also would receive copies.
But he would not speculate on when an Arab decision might come and did not rule out the possibility that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance would make another trip to the Middle East within a month. He did not foresee meetings between Vance and Mideast leaders over the next 10 days.
The State Department spokesman confirmed that the Israeli Cabinet accepted the working paper, drafted by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Vance in New York last week without conditions or reservations. President Carter said he believed there has been a “substantial alleviation” of fears among Middle East leaders about the eventual out come of the Geneva peace conference. “They’ve all begun to see that it’s not something they need fear,” he said. He described the Middle East situation as extremely sensitive and complex, in part because some leaders have made “very abusive statements” in the past which they are now doing their best to “modify.” He did not identify the leaders.
VIEW ON PALESTINIAN ISSUE
In a statement issued last night expressing satisfaction with Israel’s decision, the State Department cautioned that the approved document is “still a working paper which may require further negotiations after the Arab governments have given their views on it.”
Hodding Carter commented that “diametrically opposing views” are being expressed on the issue of Palestinian representation. He said that “whoever participates (in the Geneva conference) must be accepted by all the parties.” Asked by a Lebanese reporter if Palestinians would be allowed to attend as representatives of the “State of Palestine,” Carter replied “There is no state called Palestine today.”
LEBANON TO BE AT GENEVA TALKS
The State Department spokesman disclosed that Lebanon, which did not attend the Geneva conference when it convened briefly for the first time in December, 1973, will participate in the resumed conference along with Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the two co-chairmen, the U.S. and USSR. He said that “All parties have agreed” to Lebanon’s participation although the matter has not been fully settled. However, he added, “It is not my understanding that Saudi Arabia will be a participant.”
Hodding Carter declined to discuss the contents of the working paper. When asked if some items had been deleted from it for later discussion, he replied, “That’s a good question.” When a reporter observed, “As of now the issue of Palestinian representation is not resolved,” he replied, “That is correct.” He stressed that “without acceptance of a formula that allows Palestinians there can be no Geneva,” adding, “That has not yet happened. that remains an outstanding question.”
STRESSED RESOLUTIONS 242 AND 338
He reiterated that Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 remain the basis of the American position. Asked about the Soviet position in light of the U.S.-Soviet joint declaration of Oct. I, the spokesman replied that the Soviet Union considers “a number of resolutions are important.” But he did not say what Moscow would or would not accept regarding the Geneva conference.
The U.S. position, Hodding Carter said, is that the shape of a settlement is for the parties to determine. But he expressed “hope” that U.S. “general principles” outlined by President Carter “would be incorporated in a settlement as “necessary elements.” Asked to explain the term “necessary elements” in view of the Administration’s insistence that it will not impose a solution of the Middle East conflict, the State Department spokesman qualified his statement. “It is our belief that a general set of principles is necessary” but “they are not holy writ,” he said.