Washington (Oct. 20)
The State Department today welcomed French President Francois Mitterrand’s statement yesterday that France would be willing to participate in the multinational force that is to patrol the Sinai after Israel’s final evacuation in April, 1982.
“We warmly welcome and deeply appreciate President Mitterrand’s positive attitude toward French participation” in the Sinai force as expressed in an interview with five reporters in Williamsburg, Va.,
State Department Deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said. He said that French participation would be a “significant contribution” to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).
Romberg refused to say whether the French government had made this attitude officially known to the U.S., saying he was only commenting on the Mitterrand interview.
The U.S. has been trying to get nations to join the MFO. The U.S. will contribute more than 1,000 of the estimated 2,500 troops and civilian observers. So far, only Fiji, Colombia and Uruguay have agreed to contribute personnel to the MFO.
SEE REVERSAL OF FRANCE’S FORMER POLICY
Mitterrand’s remarks on France’s participation in the multinational force were seen as a reversal of France’s previously negative attitude toward the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
The French President, who met with President Reagan at Yorktown, Va., Sunday, declined to be quoted directly. But his offer of French troops to help oversee peace in Sinai was reported to have been “firm.” It was seen, in addition, as an offer to help the U.S. in the difficult task of putting together the multinational force which it is committed to do within the Camp David framework.
Observers speculated that French collaboration might extend to influencing other Western European governments willing to contribute to the Middle East peace process to do so by participating in the Sinai force.
Under Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, France had been hostile toward the Camp David agreements and was the leading proponent of the counter-initiative undertaken by the European Economic Community (EEC) foreign ministers at their Venice meeting in June, 1980.