AMSTERDAM (Jan. 11)
A Dutch Foreign Ministry delegation returned from a highly publicized visit to Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia late Tuesday, after failing to meet with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
The meeting was to have been the climax of their two-day, fact-finding trip, and, in fact, the main reason for it.
But Arafat never showed up.
He was in Amman, Jordan, when the delegation arrived Sunday in Tunis. He was still away Monday afternoon, when he was supposed to have received the Dutch diplomats.
He had not returned by 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, at which time the visitors returned to the Netherlands.
The delegation from The Hague consisted of Henri Weynandts, director general of political affairs at the Foreign Ministry, and Robert Sery, director of its Middle East division.
They were joined on arrival by Peter Houben, the Dutch ambassador to Tunisia, and his first secretary, Robert Akkerman.
Their instructions from Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek was to seek clarification from the PLO chief on a number of issues related to his current diplomatic offensive, for example, just what is the PLO’s definition of terrorism.
The Foreign Ministry was irked by the intense publicity for what was supposed to be a low-key mission. The PLO, on the other hand, wanted maximum publicity to show that Holland, always pro-Israel, is now veering toward the Palestinian cause.
But Arafat’s apparent snub must surely have backfired. Sources here are saying he failed to show up because he did not consider the Dutch delegation of high enough level to warrant his personal attention.
Instead of returning to Tunisia from Jordan, Arafat flew to North Yemen, then to South Yemen and finally to Cairo, where he met a delegation representing the Parliament of Europe, the European Community’s legislative body.
After that, he flew to Athens to meet Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who has long been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
The Dutch diplomats met with Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO’s foreign affairs director, and Abu Alapa, the PLO’s director of economic affairs.