PARIS (Aug. 24)
An effort to launch a joint Franco-Egyptian Middle East peace plan got underway here yesterday at a 90-minute meeting between Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Boutros Ghali and French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson.
The essence of the effort, Ghali told reporters after the meeting at Quaid’ Orsay, is to find “on overall political solution” to the Palestinian problem. Ghali said that the expulsion of the PLO forces from Lebanon was not a solution to the Palestinian problem, which is the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
According to both French and Egyptian sources here, the Cheysson-Ghali meeting was characterized by a “remarkable degree” of understanding by both sides of the steps required to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Mideast crisis.
Although both sides refrained from detailing the elements of what was dubbed “a renewed Franco-Egyptian diplomatic initiative” on the Mideast in general and the Palestinian problem in particular, it is believed that both countries will soon publish an updated version of their joint draft resolution submitted to the United Nations Security Council on July 2.
REFERS TO NEW VOICES FROM WASHINGTON
The draft, which was criticized by Israel, calls on Israel and the PLO to mutually recognize each other, thus providing the foundation for the long-range solution of the Palestinian problem.
The United States rejected the draft when it was presented to the Security Council, but sources in Paris express the hope that the U.S. will reconsider the draft, at least in its updated version, in view of “the new voices coming these days from Washington.” This referred to recent declarations by Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, both of whom have stated that a solution of the Palestinian problem is a priority issue.
Ghali told reporters here that “certain aspects of the (joint France-Egyptian) plan must now be brought up to date” and that the governments of both countries “are coordinating their views. We are quite flexible and must consult with the United States and other countries concerned.” He added he felt Washington was reassessing its Mideast policy and that Egypt would seek to explain aspects of the crisis to the Reagan Administration.
Egyptian and French diplomatic sources say one aim of the joint draft resolution is to save face for the PLO after its defeat in Lebanon. While Egyptian diplomats emphasize that the expulsion of the PLO forces from Lebanon was a “short-sighted” approach, French diplomats prefer to tread more gingerly in assessing the situation.
The French are more sensitive to the evacuation process, which they consider to be fragile, because their troops are in Lebanon as part of the international force along with American and Italian troops overseeing the withdrawal of the terrorists. The French, therefore, use more moderate language when discussing what they call the “post-Beirut options.”
CHEYSSON SEES ROLE FOR PLO
Nevertheless, Cheysson, in an interview published yesterday in the daily, Sud Ouest, stated: “We believe that negotiations must be held with the Palestinians, and for these negotiations the only known partner is the PLO. The Americans do not say that, or are not in a position to say that, because of their commitments to Israel.”
However, Cheysson noted an important development on the part of the U.S. with the stance taken by Shultz. The U.S. Secretary of State said Sunday in an interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” program that the Camp David peace process can be interpreted in many ways and that the Palestinians should have a role in determining the conditions under which they live. This was seen as a reference to some form of Palestinian participation in the peace negotiating process.
Cheysson’s reference to the PLO as the “only known partner” for the negotiations with the Palestinians was in contrast to the statement President Francois Mitterrand made last Tuesday In meeting with Israel’s Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, Mitterrand called for the “participation” of the PLO in the Mideast peace process as “one element, among others.”
In his television appearance later the same day, the President said France would continue to seek a state for the Palestinians, but refrained from saying that the PLO is the “sole representative” of the Palestinian people.
ELEMENTS IN THE UPDATED DRAFT
The updated Franco-Egyptian draft resolution will probably focus on on effort to modify Security Council Resolution 242 by replacing the characterization of the Palestinians as “refugees” as is now contained in Resolution 242. The joint draft is also likely to call for some sort of PLO “participation” in the peace process, although it is not clear what the dimensions of this “participation” would be.
Meanwhile, French and Egyptian diplomats are waiting for further clarifications from the U.S. on the views expounded by Shultz and Weinberger before they make public their updated version.