WASHINGTON (Mar. 5)
Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Harold Sounders said today that “it is necessary to deal with the Palestinian problem both as a matter of justice and stability in the Middle East.” Sounders addressed the National Foreign Policy Conference for editors and broadcasters at the State Department.
After prefacing his remarks with discussion of Soviet efforts in the Mideast, Sounders said the continuing negotiations for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict are aimed at “avoiding another war.” He added that “the problem strikes deeper” because the Palestinian movement rests “not only on Palestinian nationalism but also on its radical philosophy that reaches beyond Palestinian objectives. “He said the Palestinian movement is “meshed in” with social, economic and political changes in the Middle East.
Earlier in his prepared remarks, Saunders said that “the Soviets support governments and liberation organizations” and while “not necessarily in control” of them, the USSR takes “advantage for the achievement of similar goals.” He did not mention the Palestine Liberation Organization which has been described as a “surrogate” of the Soviet Union and receives its diplomatic and military support.
Sounders skirted questions dealing directly with the “foul-up” over the United Nations Security Council resolution last Saturday. He said in response to one question regarding U.S. “credibility” in the Middle East and on “Israel in particular” that the U.S., Egypt and Israel, having signed the Camp David agreements, are “fully committed to the peace process on the most viable approach to a peace settlement that has been devised.” He added that “their interests will impel them to go forward” and that “the results achieved speak for themselves.”
He emphasized, in response to another question, “nothing that has happened in the last few days, indeed nothing that has happened, signified any interest of the United States abandoning or in any way lessening the Camp David process.” He added: “We are committed to it because we believe it will lead to progress in the Middle East and we will do nothing in any way that could lessen its success.”