PLO Making Inroads in West Europe

Faruk Kodumi, political director of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told reporters in Rome today that he was “highly satisfied” with his three-day visit there. He also had reason to be satisfied with his visit to Belgium several days earlier. The foreign ministers of both countries all but granted official recognition to the PLO and Italy is apparently ready to receive PLO chief Yasir Arafat who is to visit France, Belgium and Portugal next month.

Kodumi had lunch and a 31/2 hour talk with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Maria Malfati. Malfati said afterwards that “Italy has no problem in granting political recognition to the PLO, nor does the Italian government find any obstacles to the principle of an eventual visit by Arafat. “Malfati said, however, that” political recognition is not to be confused with juridical recognition of the PLO as the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people.”

The latter status, he noted, could be won by the PLO only through “free and universal elections among the Palestinian people” which at the moment are “practically impossible.” Malfati said that Italy has long considered the PLO an “important force” among the Palestinian people “playing an important role in the attempt to find a global solution to the Middle East problem.”

SAYS PLO SPEAKS FOR PALESTINIANS

In Brussels last Thursday, Belgian Foreign Minister Henri Simonet said his government recognized the PLO as “expressing the will of the Palestinian people.” Speaking after a meeting with Kodumi, he contended that a bilateral peace agreement, such as the Camp David accords, is not sufficient for the establishment of a solid, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. “The main issues which need a solution concern the status of the occupied territories and their future destiny,” the Belgian minister said.

He added that the future “of the occupied territories is to became the country in which the Palestinians can build the framework of their identity, their rights, their existence as a nation. It matters not whether we like or not this situation. We have to face reality.” He said, however, that it was “premature to extend an official recognition” to the PLO.

The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, which represents 35 Jewish organizations, wrote Simonet expressing its “apprehension” over what it termed a de facto recognition of the terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, A demonstration by Belgian Jewish students outside Simonet’s home Thursday night was dispersed by police. There were no arrests.

In Rome, Kodumi topped off his visit by calling at Socialist and Communist Party headquarters. Asked by the daily, La Stampa, if the PLO is considering direct negotiations with Israel, Kodumi replied, according to the interview published today, ” How can we consider negotiating with those who occupy our territory presuming it as an integral part of the Zionist state?” He added, “Of course, we are for a negotiated solution of the conflict, but in the proper place. I repeated this three times to Malfati. The ideal place for negotiations cannot be other than the United Nations. There, everyone is represented.”

Italy’s position, according to observers, is to follow but not attempt to surpass the pro-PLO line of the nine European Economic Community (EEC) nations. It is expected that Arafat will visit Italy and will be received by Premier Francesco Cossiga and that the PLO office in Rome will be upgraded to a more official status.

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