VIENNA (Dec. 19)
Austria and the Palestine Liberation Organization will soon exchange ambassadors, according to an announcement made during PLO leader Yasir Arafat’s one-day visit here Monday.
While Austria has not recognized the independent state of Palestine Arafat proclaimed last month at the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers, the PLO representative in Vienna, Daoud Barakat, will be accredited as ambassador before the year’s end.
At the same time, the Austrian ambassador to Tunisia will receive accreditation from the PLO, which has its headquarters in the North African country.
Arafat, whose international stature seemed to soar after the United States last week reversed a 13-year-old ban on official dialogue with the PLO, arrived here from Cairo.
He met in the morning with Chancellor Franz Vranitzky and Foreign Minister Alois Mock, who holds the rank of vice chancellor.
Arafat was also received by President Kurt Waldheim at his villa in the afternoon, a call apparently initiated by Waldheim, as it was not on Arafat’s itinerary.
The PLO chief said he was “gratified” by his talks with Vranitzky, leader of the ruling Socialist Party, and with Mock, who heads its coalition partner, the conservative People’s Party.
Mock said afterward that the PLO changed radically when it dissociated itself from terrorism.
But the Austrian Jewish community disagrees. In a letter to Mock, the community leaders warned that the PLO is talking peace, but planning the destruction of Israel.
Mock, for his part, used the occasion of the visit to appeal to the Israeli government to react in a positive way to Arafat’s statements last week in Geneva, where he addressed a special session of the U.N. General Assembly.
His remarks at a subsequent news conference there were construed by the United States as recognition of Israel’s right to exist and renunciation of terrorism, key conditions for the initiation of an American dialogue with the PLO.
Mock charged Israel with violating the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 in its treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The convention defines the behavior of an occupying power toward the civilian population of an occupied territory.
Vranitzky announced that Austria would increase its aid to the Palestinian population, but through United Nations channels, not the PLO. He mentioned specifically medical and agricultural assistance.
While the Austrian Foreign Ministry welcomed Arafat’s proclamation of an independent Palestine, it refrained from recognizing it formally. Diplomatic practice requires that a state possess territory, which is the PLO does not.
Arafat is no stranger to Vienna. He was officially received here nine years ago by the then Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, leader of the Socialist Party and a Jew.
At that time, Austria was one of the few European countries that would extend an official invitation to Arafat.