London (Oct. 14)
Lord Carrington, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, is to visit the Middle East early next month and the possibility is growing that he will meet Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat. Carrington will be going to Saudi Arabia to discuss the eight-point peace plan of Crown Prince Fahd. The plan had been rejected
by Israel but Britain and other European Economic Community (EEC) countries think it contains positive elements.
The prospect of a meeting between Carrington and Arafat emerged from yesterday’s statement by the PLO leader that the Saudi plan was “a positive step and a very important platform for a solution of Middle East peace problems.”
Until now, the British have been making a meeting with Arafat dependent on the PLO agreeing to mutual and simultaneous recognition by the Palestinians and Israelis. Since it is precisely this principle which the British see as the most positive element in the Saudi plan, Arafat’s comment made in Tokyo yesterday, may be seen by the British as the first sign of flexibility from the PLO which they require for high level direct contact with it.
Carrington will be visiting Saudi Arabia on behalf of the EEC, whose Foreign Ministers met in London yesterday. The British and the European partners evidently regard the uncertainty following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat as an opportunity to pursue their own peace proposals.
It remains to be seen though whether Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and other members of her Cabinet will authorize Carrington to meet Arafat. During a visit to Bahrain last month, she said Britain would not negotiate with the PLO as long as it practiced terrorism. She also said that Britain did not recognize organizations, only countries.
The Saudi Arabian plan, which has been rejected by Israel, demands her total withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines; removal of all Jewish settlements from occupied terrorities; an independent Palestinian state ruled from East Jerusalem; as well as a guarantee of the right of all states in the region to live in peace.