PARIS (Feb. 21)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel arrived here Tuesday for a three-day visit in sharp disagreement with his host, President Francois Mitterrand.
The Israeli leader, on his first trip abroad since the Likud-Labor coalition government took office Dec. 22, seems determined to block any role for the Palestine Liberation Organization and its chairman, Yasir. Arafat, in the Middle East peace process.
Mitterrand, and other Western European leaders, consider the PLO a plausible and, in fact, necessary negotiating partner.
But Shamir made clear, in an interview published in Le Figaro on the day of his arrival, that he will not accept, under any conditions whatsoever, negotiations or even indirect contacts with the PLO.
He told the French daily any kind of contacts are “out of the question,” adding that he would be “happy if President Mitterrand were to cancel his meeting with” Arafat.
France will be the leader of the 12-nation European Community when it assumes the rotating chairmanship of the E.C. Council of Ministers on July 1.
Israeli diplomats say Shamir wants to convince Mitterrand that peace can be achieved in the Middle East without the PLO and that Israel can and should negotiate with other Palestinian partners.
But Shamir did not specify in his interview who those partners might be. He did not, however, rule out elections for a local Palestinian leadership in the Israeli-administered territories.
Another purpose of Shamir’s visit, Israeli diplomats said, is to try to improve Israel’s image, which has sagged in Europe during the 15 months since the Palestinian uprising began.
Mitterrand seems to be doing what he can to help. He ordered an exceptionally warm welcome for the visiting Israeli prime minister.
According to observers, Mitterrand ordered the effulgent reception in order to stress his high regard and affection for Israel.
With that established, it will be easier for him to try to convince the Israeli leader to accept an international peace conference and to explain his contacts with the PLO as a means of advancing the peace process, observers here said.