Swiss Foreign Office Boosts Role of the PLO

The controversial visit here of a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, Farouk Kaddoumi, was followed by a Foreign Office communique describing the PLO as “an important factor in the search for a solution on the Middle East” but denying it official recognition by the Swiss government. The communique explained that recognition can be extended only to sovereign states.

Kaddoumi, who is the PLO’s spokesman in foreign affairs, met with Foreign Minister Pierre Aubert in Bern under tight security measures. “Security reasons” were cited to explain why photographers and television camera crews were barred from the meeting which was also attended by Raymond Probst, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, and by the director of its Middle East division.

But observers here believe that Aubert, who invited Kaddoumi, was embarrassed by the visit and wanted minimum publicity. He was reported to have extended the invitation only reluctantly and under pressure from pro-Palestinian elements. He chose mid-July when most people are on vacation in order to avoid publicity and protest demonstrations. The Jewish community dropped the idea of a protest march because there was only a handful of marchers still in town.

EFFORT AT EVEN-HANDEDNESS

The Foreign Office communique was an effort at even-handedness. It stated that all proposed solutions to the Middle East problem must take into consideration the security of Israel in internationally recognized borders and also the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.

The communique said that Switzerland deplores the use of force by states, groups or individuals as a means of solving international problems. It specifically condemned acts of terrorism but also reaffirmed the principle of international law barring the acquisition of territory by force. The communique stated that Switzerland is ready, if called upon, to support and contribute to efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

Despite the summer doldrums, some demonstrators handed out leaflets in front of the Palais Federal, the government house, when Kaddoumi arrived for his meeting with Aubert. One group favored his visit and the other was opposed. Police were present but did not intervene as the demonstrations on both sides were carried out in proper “Swiss order.” They indicated, however, that whatever their sympathies, the Swiss were not indifferent to Kaddoumi’s visit.

The PLO leader left for Geneva where he is the guest of the Arab League office. The Arab League was arranging a press conference limited to the Swiss and Arabic press.

NEXT STORY