PARIS (Sep. 7)
Foreign Minister Gaston Thorn of Luxembourg, who is also the president of the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Council of Ministers, will return to Israel later this month to meet with Premier Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Thorn, who is conducting a study on the Middle East conflict on behalf of the EEC’s nine member states, also plans to meet with Palestinian-leaders from the West Bank and the Gaza district.
Thorn’s decision to return to Israel Sept. 29 for a. two-day visit followed an open rift between himself and Israeli leaders. The EEC Council president, who last weekend conferred with President Anwar Sodat of Egypt in Cairo, had warned earlier that he would cancel altogether his return visit to Israel. Circles close to him said he was “exasperated” by what they termed Israeli-made difficulties. These, the sources said, hinged mainly on the people. Thorn wanted to meet, including Palestinians under administrative detention, and the actual date for his arrival.
Israeli sources said, however, that Thorn wanted to arrive in Israel last week while Israel’s leaders were busy with President Carter’s special representative to the autonomy talks, Sal Linowitz. An Israeli official source told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “both sides have to agree on a visit date.”
The matter was straightened out last week when Israel’s Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Yitzhak Minerbi, met with Thorn in Luxembourg. European sources in Brussels said that the rift between Israel and the EEC “was only papered over and continues to exist.”
The EEC is due to meet Sept. 15 and 16 in Brussels when their foreign ministers will consider Thorn’s report and decide whether to take immediate diplomatic action in the Middle East or Wait for the American Presidential election. Several of the nine ministers reportedly want immediate initiatives as they fear that “Israel might well use the American pre-electoral period to carry out additional unilateral actions, such as transferring the Premier’s office to East Jerusalem or annexing the Golan Heights.”
Israel obviously resents any West European interference in the current tripartite peace process and says that Israel and Egypt should be allowed to work out matters between themselves, with America’s assistance, in Line with the Camp David accords.
The nine, on the other hand, say their policy is based on their joint declaration issued last June in Venice which called for the recognition of Palestinian self-determination and the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the peace talks. The Europeans do not believe that the Camp David accords can succeed in achieving peace and are pressing for a West European initiative.