Mitterrand Supports Peres’ Peace Plan; France Reconsidering Its Attitude Toward PLO in Peace Talks

President Francois Mitterrand expressed support of Israeli Premier Shimon Peres’ peace plan with Jordan and his offer of direct peace negotiations with that country, during their close to three-hour meeting at the Elysee Palace last Friday. French sources said that Mitterrand expressed the hope that the peace process with Jordan will start moving soon and that France will do whatever it can to help it along.

The Elysee Palace also issued a statement clearly hinting that France is about to drop its request for Palestine Liberation Organization representation during Middle East peace negotiations, a view espoused by the Mitterrand Administration since it came into office.

The statement, later issued in more detailed form by the Foreign Ministry, said that “France is reconsidering its policy (on the Palestinian issue) in view of recent events and the way they had affected the perception (about them) throughout the world.” The statement added that France will contact various Arab countries before policy changes are instituted.

A BLOW TO THE PLO

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that the review of its attitude toward the PLO in peace talks was not quite a “reassessment” of France’s Mideast policy and that no formal policy changes have yet taken place. But the announcement, which was made during Peres’ two-day visit to Paris Friday and yesterday, was seen as a blow to the PLO.

Western diplomats interpreted the announcement as a signal of France’s displeasure with the PLO’s recent actions and an acknowledgement that the PLO’s image and status had been substantially damaged by the hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro and the refusal of two PLO officials to sign a statement renouncing terrorism and violence and recognizing Israel’s right to secure and defensible borders. This refusal led to the cancellation of a meeting between British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe and the two Palestinians.

Peres arrived in Paris Friday morning from New York on the last leg of a 10-day trip to the United States during which he met with President Reagan and top Administration officials and Congressmen in Washington and addressed the United Nations General Assembly, where he unveiled his peace plan and pro- claimed that “the state of war between Israel and Jordan should be terminated immediately.” Jordan’s King Hussein expressed his belief that Peres’ speech “represents the beginning of movement in the right direction” and said he hoped “it is the beginning of a realization of what is required for the establishment for a just and durable peace, in other words, rapid movement towards the convening of an international conference with the participation of all the parties of the conflict to try to tackle the issues before us before it is too late.”

FRAMEWORK OF NEGOTIATIONS

At a working lunch Friday attended by French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, Peres stressed that Israel sees the international forum which he referred to in his peace plan as “furthering direct negotiations and not substituting itself for this process.”Peres, in his UN General Assembly address, had stated:

“Negotiations are to be based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and on willingness to entertain suggestions proposed by other participants; negotiations are to be conducted directly between states; if deemed necessary, these negotiations may be initiated with the support of an international forum, as agreed upon by the negotiating states; this gathering can take place before the end of this year, in Jordan, Israel or any location, as mutually agreed upon.”

Peres, at the working lunch, also stressed that there is unanimity in Israel on the refusal to sit down and negotiate with terrorists, “with people who want our (Israel’s) destruction and who do not renounce terrorism.” Later, at a press conference he emphasized, too, that only countries which have normal diplomatic relations with Israel can take part in the peace process. “This excludes the Soviet Union from this international forum,” Peres said.

Before leaving Paris for Israel last night, Peres told a small group of reporters that the international forum which he mentioned in his peace plan could be the UN Security Council. He said that its role, as he sees it, would consist of voting for a resolution welcoming direct Israeli-Jordanian negotiations. He said he could conceive that under certain circumstances the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, both permanent members of the Security Council, could vote in favor of such a resolution.

In related developments, Jordan’s King Hussein is scheduled to arrive in Paris November 9 for talks with Mitterrand. The President, diplomatic sources here said, will urge Hussein to take advantage of the Israeli opening and start direct negotiations with Israel. Dumas, meanwhile, is leaving today for Baghdad and is scheduled to visit Israel next month, and to visit Damascus at an unspecified date.

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