WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
The Reagan Administration maintained today that it has been consistent in its policy “both publicly and privately” not to recognize or negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and Israel’s right to exist.
“There is no change in that,” State Department deputy spokesman Alan Ramberg stressed. “We said if they do these things, then we’ll talk to them. There is no change in that.”
But Romberg would not discuss, specifically, published reports that the Administration, over a nine-month period ending in June, 1982, conducted secret discussions through an intermediary with PLO chief Yasir Arafat.
According to the published reports, the intermediary was John Mroz, a specialist on the Middle East and the Soviet Union, who reportedly conducted the talks with the knowledge of then Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Nicholas Veliotes, at the time Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and now the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.
Romberg said today, “We have contact with a variety of people who claim to have contact with the PLO.” He said that when they ask what they should tell the PLO, they are told to repeat the U.S. conditions.
Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, said on a television panel program Sunday, the day the reports of the alleged secret U.S. contacts with the PLO were published, that he has “no personal knowledge of any such contact and I’m very confident the President was unaware of any such contact if they took place.” McFarlane, appearing on the ABC-TV “This Week With David Brinkley” program said he was “very puzzled” by the report.
DINITZ: NO SUBSTANCE TO THE REPORT
In a report from Jerusalem today, Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.S. Simcha Dinitz indicated his belief that there was no substance to the report of unofficial U.S. contacts with the PLO. Interviewed on Voice of Israel Radio. Dinitz said he did not see a weakening of the U.S. position on the PLO.
According to Dinitz, if President Carter could not find a way to bypass the 1975 U.S. commitment made by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger not to talk to the PLO until it accepted the American condition it was hardly likely that President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz would be doing it. Dinitz added, however, “We must distinguish between the exploratory level that was going on throughout in one way or another and the political commitment which remains sound.”
According to the account published Sunday in. The New York Times, “current and former Administration officials said the Mroz mission was authorized by Alexander M. Haig, Jr. who was then Secretary of State in August, 1981 after Washington received a suggestion from Mr. Arafat about secret talks … Mr. Haig told President Reagan in a private meeting in California of his plan to have Mr. Mroz sound out the PLO position and later told his aides that Mr. Reagan approved the idea.”
The account said, “From August, 1981 to May, 1982, Mr. Mroz had more than 50 meetings with Mr. Arafat totalling more than 400 hours.” Only a handful of U.S. and PLO officials were aware of these talks. Veliotes was described as Mroz’s “chief contact in Washington.”
Mroz was identified in the account as the 35-year-old president of the East-West Security Foundation who was director of Middle East Studies at the International Academy of Peace in New York when the effort with the PLO began.
According to the account, “Although Mr. Haig had often condemned the PLO for its terrorist activities, he was persuaded by Mr. Veliotes to try to split the Palestinians away from the Soviet Union and make it easier to achieve progress in the Middle East.”
The account said further that after the PLO’s defeat in Lebanon in 1982, Secretary Shultz authorized Mroz in September, 1982 to make one more effort to revive the talks but Arafat, who was then in Tunis, refused to see him.