Washington (Nov. 24)
The second ranking official in the British Foreign Office denied here yesterday that the statement by four European Economic Community (EEC) countries announcing their agreement to participate in the Sinai peacekeeping force implied opposition to the continuation of the Camp David process. (Related story, P. 4)
Douglas Hurd, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said the European countries were only pointing out that they were joining the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to help implement the part of the Camp David agreement that calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai and “not passing any judgement on the rest” of the Camp David process.
In a statement to the House of Commons earlier yesterday announcing British participation in the MFO, Humphrey Atkins, a senior Foreign Office official, said “We regard our support for the arrangements associated with the implementation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty as quite distinct from and independent of the rest of the Camp David process.” France, Italy and The Netherlands issued a similar statement in announcing that they, along with Britain, would join the MFO.
Hurd, who specializes in the Mideast at the British Foreign Office, made his remarks at a press conference at the British Embassy. He said he was in Washington to discuss with United States officials, not the MFO announcement, but “how things are going to move over the next months” in the Middle East.
SAYS STATEMENT HAD NO SURPRISES
The British official said it would be a “pity” if Israel rejected the four European countries because of reaffirmation of the EEC’s Venice declaration and its call for participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Mideast peace negotiations.
“There is nothing we have said which could have come as a surprise,” Hurd stressed. He said the four European countries “could not have taken this major decision” to participate in the MFO “without at the same time restating” their “basic” position on the Arab-Israel conflict.
Hurd stressed that the four European countries were joining the MFO in response to a request by the United States. He said the reason it took so long for the four countries to announce their decision was not the decision itself to which they had already agreed.
“The difficulty was to work out the best way of stating the background against which we took the decision,” Hurd said. He explained that all 10 members of the EEC had to agree on the wording of the statement.
Hurd pointed out that the statements made in Europe yesterday stressed the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai was seen as the “first step” toward withdrawal from all occupied territory as called for by United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.
He denied the European countries were concerned about the reaction from the Arab countries since Arab League Foreign Ministers, meeting in Fez, Morocco, had urged the Europeans not to join the Sinai force. He said he believed the Europeans would be able to explain their position to “our Arab friends.”
WEST EUROPEANS NOT WORKING AGAINST U.S.
Hurd also rejected the view that the West Europeans were working against U.S. efforts in the Mideast. He said it was good for allies to have divergent views and that in all the talks with the Arabs the Europeans stressed that it was “no good asking us to do things contrary to the U.S. efforts” since the U.S. was essential to the eventual establishment of a comprehensive peace in the Mideast.
At the same time, British support for the eightpoint plan proposed by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia did not conflict with the Camp David process, Hurd maintained. He said the statements on the Fahd plan by British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington were essentially no different than President Reagan’s statement about the Fahd plan.
Reagan said the Fahd plan was hopeful because it seemed to imply Saudi recognition of Israel. But in Riyadh, Carrington not only praised the Fahd plan but said the Camp David process is at an end, while the U.S. maintains that the Camp David process is the only means for achieving peace in the Mideast.
Hurd said he did not know how many people Britain and the other European countries would be sending to the MFO but the figure would be in the “scores” rather than hundreds. He said they would be “support units.”