Dutch Foreign Minister Meets Arafat

Foreign Minister Hans Van Den Broek returned from a one-day visit to Tunisia Tuesday openly pessimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East, especially after an hour-long meeting in Tunis with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat.

He met with Arafat in his capacity as chairman of the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Council of Ministers. He told reporters on his return here that his talk with the PLO leader convinced him that the Middle East problem remains at an impasse.

No early solution is likely and a standstill is no improvement, the Dutch diplomat said. He spoke with Arafat and the PLO’s foreign affairs spokesman, Farouk Khaddoumi after recent meetings with Israeli Premier Shimon PERES, King Hussein of Jordan, President Hafez Assad of Syria and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

In Tunisia he also met with Chedli Klibi, Secretary General of the Arab League. They discussed fighting international terrorism. Klibi observed, Van Den Broek said, that the underlying cause of Palestinian terrorism was the hopelessness and despair of the Palestinians which must be alleviated.

Van Den Broek said that his overall impression from his talks with Arab leaders is that they see Israel’s existence as an irreversible reality but don’t want to admit this officially. He said he told Arafat that no permanent peace is possible without Arab recognition of Israel.

On the other hand, the Foreign Minister said, Israel must recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. He said he agreed with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that the present position of the Palestinians in the Israel-occupied territories can be only temporary.

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