Haig Reaffirms U.S. Policy Toward PLO in Rejoinder to Carter and Ford Who Assert the U.S. Must Deal

Secretary of State Alexander Haig has reaffirmed U.S. policy to have no contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist. This was Haig’s rejoinder today to assertions by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford that the U.S. eventually must deal with the PLO if the Middle East peace process is to succeed.

All three men attended the funeral of President Anwar Sadat in Cairo Saturday. Carter and Ford made their remarks to reporters aboard an Air Force jet in which they were returning to Washington yesterday. Both stressed that resolution of the Palestinian problem was critical to peace in the region.

Meanwhile, PLO chief Yasir Arafat was due in Tokyo today on his first visit to Japan, at the invitation of the Parliamentarian League for Japan-Palestine Friendship. He is expected to meet with the Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, political leaders of all parties and businessmen.

Japan is the first major ally of the United States to receive Arafat and the first major non-Communist nation he has visited. Although Arafat has met with several Western European leaders in the past, those encounters took place in Vienna or in Beirut.

U.S., ISRAEL’S VIEWS OF ARAFAT’S VISIT

The U.S. government was aware of Arafat’s impending visit to Japan some months ago and while it is not known to have protested, Washington is said to be discomfited by the development. President Reagan has asked Suzuki for Japanese support of American peace efforts in the Middle East following the assassination of Sadat last Tuesday.

Israel has publicly expressed regret over Arafat’s visit to Japan. Ambassador Amnon Ben-Yohanan of Israel told reporters in Tokyo that the PLO has ties with the Japanese Red Army, a terrorist group based in Beirut, that acted on behalf of the PLO in an attack in 1972 at Ben Gurion Airport that killed 26 people.

Before visiting Japan, Arafat stopped over in Peking and was due to visit North Korea’s leader, Kim II Sung. In April, 1980, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said that “Japan considers that the PLO represents the Palestinian people.” Last week, however, the Foreign Ministry stated that Japan “does not recognize the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

FORD, CARTER IN CLOSE AGREEMENT

Ford and Carter each dealt with different phases of the Middle East conflict. The Ford Administration was instrumental in arranging the first and second Sinai interim agreements in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.

Carter personally played a major role in the Camp David agreements which led to the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the negotiations between Israel, Egypt and the U.S. for Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The autonomy talks were resumed last month after a hiatus of over a year and will continue later this month.

Their views on the peace process, the PLO and the Middle East situation in general, expressed to reporters yesterday, indicated that the two former Presidents were in close agreement.

Ford asserted that it would be of benefit to Israel and the PLO “if there could be a more rapid decision” on the future status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said the U.S. would have to talk to the PLO. “At some point it has to happen. I would not want to pick a date today, but in a realistic way, that dialogue has to take place if you’re going really to come to grips with the last issues that are on the table.”

Carter said, “There is no way for Israel ever to have an assured permanent peace without resolving the Palestinian issue … In the Camp David agreement, there is a provision for Jordan and Egypt, as part of their own delegations, to have Palestinian leaders included. And, of course, the overwhelming portion of the mayors and other local Arab officials in the West Bank and Gaza are members of the PLO. So I think that Jerry (Ford) is certainly right in saying these discussions have to be done.”

Carter went on to warn against stigmatizing the Palestinian people as terrorists, “a very fallacious thing to do.” He maintained that “Many of the PLO leaders are very moderate in abhoring terrorism and violence.” He said he could not envisage “any possibility in the future … of the Palestinian world and the Arab world acknowledging any other leadership for the Palestinians other than the PLO.”

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