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Behind the Headlines U.s., Britain, France Focus on ‘understandings’

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– Top level discussions between the U.S., Britain and France during the past week on Arab-Israeli issues centered on “understandings” by the three governments of each other’s positions and a tacit agreement to avoid any major development by any of them before Israel’s parliamentary elections on June 30, it was indicated here.

U.S. sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the Europeans have decided not to “send a shot across the American bows” by pressing the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Middle East initiative that would, among other things, associate the Palestine Liberation Organization with the peace process without preconditions, and call for Israel’s withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

On the other hand, sources indicated that the U.S. is continuing to review its position. But the only development in sight is the probability that Secretary of State Alexander Haig will leave for the Middle East early in April. His travel plans are now being worked out and all but two stops have been scheduled, it was said. “But there’s always a possibility of the cancellation of the whole trip,” an official cautioned, noting the many other foreign policy matters of concern to Washington.

Haig’s trip, it was said, would be to “get acquainted” with Middle East personalities. It does not mean, the source said, that any major developments in Arab-Israeli affairs will take place before Israel’s elections, although Egyptian-Israeli talks on the technical level may take place with respect to West Bank-Gaza autonomy in order to maintain the Camp David process. A U.S.-Egyptian-Israeli summit meeting is considered improbable until after the elections.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington apparently told

President Reagan and Haig during their visit here last week that the European initiative is “complementary to and not competitive with” U.S. policy. French Foreign Minister Jean Francois-Poncet has taken a “more hard-nosed” view, sources said, but is inclined “not to rock the American boat” and to await the results of the Israeli elections.

This would indicate that the Arab-Israeli situation, insofar as the peace process is concerned, will be frozen by both the U.S. and Europe until next September when the UN General Assembly meets in New York. A hiatus of two months after the Israeli election is also considered probable on the reasoning that any Israeli government will need time to assess its election mandate.

CARRINGTON TERMED MOST PRO-ARAB

Lord Carrington is described by American sources as being the most pro-Arab of all European Foreign Ministers, including Poncet. He was reported as insisting that only a solution of the Palestinian problem will bring a better alignment with the West by the Arab states against Soviet influence in the Middle East.

He was reported as saying that while PLO tactics have been nasty, it is a political reality and that, in any event, leaders in Africa like Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Mugabe were terrorists but now they are in power and negotiations for the creation of several African states could not have taken place if terrorists had not been invited to participate.

That attitude of legitimizing terrorists and using Mugabe as an example of a terrorist turned political leader, was offered by Clovis Maksoud, the Arab League representative in the U.S. in a National Press Club speech last winter when he urged the U.S. to negotiate with PLO chief Yasir Arafat.

The Reagan Administration, in listing Soviet support of terrorist organizations, named the PLO first among them. The Administration was described by a State Department official as possibly shifting ground on some phases of its Arab-Israeli policy, but not on the question of Jerusalem which it wants to remain a united city with the “parties” negotiating its status.

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