British Minister, PLO Official Meet in ‘unscheduled’ Encounter

Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Ian Gilmour and Farouk Kaddoumi, the foreign minister of the Palestine Liberation Organization, met briefly yesterday in what the Foreign Office said was an “unscheduled” encounter at the Syrian Embassy. This is the first acknowledged meeting to take place in London between such a senior PLO official and a British Cabinet Minister.

The Foreign Office said that their talks were without substance and that the meeting did not mark any shift in Britain’s Middle East policy. However, it has caused deep concern among Israeli circles here and Israel Ambassador Shlomo Argov will raise it today when he accompanies visiting Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Shamir on a courtesy call to Gilmour’s boss, Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington. Despite the British disclaimers, Israeli suspicions are deep-erred by the known pro-Arab sympathy of Sir Ian.

The meeting also follows persistent calls by the pro-Arab lobby here for Britain to end its “isolation” from Western Europe by becoming more amenable to the PLO.

The Gilmour-Kaddoumi meeting took place at a reception given by Syrian Ambassador Mohammed Omrane for delegates to a conference on Jerusalem organized by the Islamic Council for Europe and the Saudi Arabian Information Ministry. Also present at the reception was Foreign Office Minister of State Douglas Hurd who next week starts a visit to Israel, Egypt and the Sudan.

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