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U.S. ‘warmly Welcomes’ European Participation in Sinai Force

The United States said today that it “warmly welcomes” the decision by four Western European countries to join the peacekeeping force that will patrol Sinai after Israel’s final withdrawal next April.

Britain, France, Italy and The Netherlands announced in a joint statement released from their respective capitals, that they will participate in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).

But at the same time, the four members of the European Economic Community (EEC) stressed that they still support the EEC’s Venice declaration of 1980 which calls for the Palestine Liberation Organization to be associated with Middle East peace negotiations.

The State Department issued a statement today which said that the U.S. views the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty “as the first step toward a broader just and durable peace in the Middle East and remains convinced that negotiations based on the framework agreed to at Camp David can help realize that goal. The participation of four of our European allies in the MFO will inevitably strengthen that organization and will enhance its ability to carry out its functions as agreed between Egypt and Israel.”

A Department spokesperson noted that both Israel and Egypt, which can veto any member of the MFO, agreed earlier on the participation of the European countries. But she had no comment as to whether Israel may now bar the Europeans because of their reaffirmation of the Venice declaration. Premier Menachem Begin had warned earlier that Israel would not accept any member which joins the MFO on the basis of anything but the Camp David accords.

The spokesperson noted that the statement by the four European countries today “reflected already well known positions” of their governments. The U.S. is expected to supply some 1,000 of the 2,500 military personnel and civilian observers that will make up the MFO. Now that the European countries have joined, Australia is also expected to announce its participation. Previously, Fiji, Colombia and Uruguay said they would join the force.

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