Paris (Nov. 23)
Four Western European countries — Britain, France, Italy and The Netherlands — announced today that they will provide units for the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) which will patrol Sinai after Israel completes its withdrawal next April.
The announcement referred to the Camp David agreements, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. It was accompanied by a joint declaration on behalf of the 10-member states of the European Economic Community (EEC) supporting the participation by the four but stressing at the same time that the EEC states “back a global agreement” in the Middle East with which the “Palestine Liberation Organization should be associated.”
MOVE WELCOMED BY EGYPT
The announcement was promptly welcomed by Egypt. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Boutros Ghali said in Cairo today that Egypt hoped the participation of the four European states would encourage other Western countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand to participate in the MFO as well. The U.S. is already committed to provide nearly half of the 2,500-member force and, according to Washington, commitments also have been made by Fiji, Uruguay and Colombia. (See related story from Washington, P.3.)
Israel, which has fiercely objected to any reference by the EEC to its Venice declaration of 1980 in connection with the MFO, has not yet announced whether it will accept the statement accompanying today’s announcement. Israel is expected to ask each of the European participants for “clarification” of their position. Israel has threatened to disqualify any country that agreed to participate in the MFO on the basis of any formula other than the Camp David accords.
The joint text issued today was the subject of a month-long dispute between the EEC and Israel and among members of the EEC. Greece, the newest member, objected to any reference to Camp David. The Israelis oppose the Venice declaration because it calls for association of the PLO with the Mideast peace process.
ELEMENTS OF THE STATEMENT
The announcement by the four European states stressed that they consider their participation in the MFO as “helping to implement UN Resolution 242.” A subsequent paragraph explains that their decision. “stems from their policy as defined in the Venice declaration.”
The joint statement added: “While emphasizing guarantees for the security of the State of Israel, this policy also insists on justice for the Palestinian people and its right to self-determination. It also implies that the PLO should be associated with a peace process leading to global peace.” The announcement and accompanying statement was relayed to Israel, Egypt and the U.S. yesterday through diplomatic channels. The 10 EEC states stressed that Egypt needs stability and that its government should be encouraged to maintain the continuity of the peace process.
WOULD SUPPLY MEDICAL TEAMS, LOGISTICAL SUPPORT
European sources said the four countries would supply medical teams and logistical support for the MFO but probably would not dispatch combat troops. French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson made it clear last week that France would not send combat forces and the Dutch have taken a similar stand. Italy and Britain are expected to follow suit.
If approved by Israel, Western European participation could open the way for Canadian, Australian and New Zealand troops. Israel is especially anxious to have those countries in the MFO along with the U.S.
According to a French spokesman, European participation rests on four basic principles, the first of which is “the security of all states in the region, including the future Palestinian state, which would be able to live in peace within mutually agreed borders.” The three other points deal with the right “of the Palestinian people to forge its own destiny which will naturally aim at the creation of a state.”
INCLINING TOWARD FAHD’S PLAN
Diplomatic sources in Brussels said today that the 10 EEC nations are increasingly favorable toward the eight-point plan proposed by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia last August but flatly rejected by Israel. The sources said that, with slight variations, the EEC-member states believe the Saudi plan could and should serve as the basis for future negotiations for a global peace settlement in the Middle East.
But the Fahd plan has already run into trouble at the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Fez, Morocco where the PLO turned it down. The PLO representative and its foreign policy spokesman, Farouk Kaddoumi, called the plan “unacceptable and dangerous.”
Diplomatic sources in Fez told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Saudi delegation, led by Foreign Minister Prince Saud, seemed shocked by the strong terms with which Kaddoumi rejected the plan. The PLO official said the decision to reject it was taken unanimously by the PLO’s executive council at a secret meeting in Beirut over the weekend attended by PLO chief Yasir Arafat.
In view of that development, Arab sources in Fez said it is no longer certain that the Saudis will press ahead with their plan which has failed to gain support in most Arab states and was treated coolly by the U.S.