Franco-plo Relations at All Time Low

France’s relations with the PLO are at an all time low. Palestinian spokesmen are accusing the French government and especially President Francois Mitterrand of “double-talk” in the Middle East.

The usually reliable French paper Le Monde reported from Tunis that Palestinian anger is such that PLO chief Yasir Arafat has refused to meet French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson. The paper said the two were to confer in Tunis where Cheysson is scheduled to arrive later this week but Arafat has told the French “he was toobusy to meet him.”

According to Le Monde, and confirmed by French diplomatic sources, the Palestinians are worried about a possible rapprochement between Paris and Damascus. Syrian President Hafez Assad has kicked Arafat and the PLO out of Syria and backed the anti-Fatah opposition during last year’s inter-Palestinian fighting in northern Lebanon. Mitterrand is scheduled to pay an official visit to Damascus before the end of the year.

Le Monde correspondent in Tunis quoted PLO leaders as warning that the French Socialist Administration is using “double-talk” in its Mideast dealings, implying that it is telling each side what it wants to hear.

The Palestinians also violently complain that the French are not keeping them informed of their various diplomatic contacts nor about their intentions to launch a diplomatic initiative, in conjunction with Israel’s Labor Party if it will succeed to form the next government.

The Paris-based weekly Afrique-Asie, known for its reliable information on Arab affairs, says in its current issue that Assad has invited Mitterrand to Damascus “to try and break his support for Arafat and the PLO.” The weekly says Assad has practically no hope to change France’s pro-Israeli attitude but wants to improve his relations with Paris “at the PLO’s expense.”

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