LONDON (Mar. 23)
A ranking official strongly defended Foreign Secretary Francis Pym today against charges by Israel that he was biased in favor of the Arabs. Douglas Hurd, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said that Pym had been entirely “accurate” in saying that Israel was primarily responsible for blocking progress toward an overall peace settlement in the Middle East.
Hurd, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Israeli newspaper correspondents, was referring to Pym’s remarks last Friday after a visit to London by an Arab League delegation headed by King Hussein of Jordan and the Israel Embassy’s public protest over Pym’s “one sided” comments.
Hurd said the Arab League mission to London created a “good atmosphere” that “will enable us to get rid of some misunderstandings and get back to playing a reasonably energetic role in the area.” He insisted that Hussein was “very anxious” to enter peace negotiations and vigorously denied reports in the press here that Britain had advised the Jordanian ruler against hasty acceptance of Israel’s invitation to join negotiations within the Camp David framework.
SYMPATHY WITH HUSSEIN’S CONCERNS
Britain has not given Hussein any advice “but we do understand and sympathize with his concerns,” Hurd said. The Minister described as “balanced” the statement on the Middle East released yesterday by the heads of the 10 member states of the European Economic Community (EEC) at their summit conference in Brussels.
Hurd said the statement, supporting President Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative, was “a document of encouragement and not a European initiative.” He said it was intended to encourage the Arabs, the U.S. and Israel to move toward peace in the Middle East.
Replying to a question by the JTA, Hurd acknowledged that “some progress” has been made in the negotiations between Israel and Lebanon but he stressed that “there is still a long way to go.”