BONN (Jun. 18)
Israel’s peace initiative is receiving a favorable, though cautious, reaction in European capitals, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens said here Sunday,
Arens, who is here to discuss Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s plan for elections of Palestinian representatives in the administered territories, said the Europeans “are interested in hearing us, and they do display a sympathetic attitude.”
Arens, emerging from a three-hour meeting with his West German counterpart, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, said he hoped his talks here will help shape a positive European attitude toward the Israeli plan, which is intended to provide for some form of Palestinian autonomy in the future.
“They certainly do not reject our idea,” Arens said of European leaders.
Genscher was not available for comment, but one of his aides said the conversation with Arens had produced a better understanding of the Israeli point of view.
Arens took issue with the tendency of European government leaders to favor an international Middle East peace conference and to bring the Palestine Liberation Organization into the process, suggesting that both formulas were outdated.
“No one can think today of convening a peace forum, which has to take into consideration the present situation and to move forward to a realistic assessment,” Arens said.
On Monday, Arens will get a chance to put this position to a test. He is due to meet with Hans-Jochen Vogel of the opposition Social Democratic Party, who recently announced a decision to invite an official PLO delegation to Germany in October.
Arens also is scheduled to meet Monday with West German President Richard von Weizsacker and with Jurgen Warnke, the minister of economic cooperation, who handles foreign aid programs.
REFUSED TO STEP ON GERMAN SOIL
In a potentially embarrassing development, two of Arens’ aides refused to accompany him, so as not to set foot on German soil. The refusal was reported in the German soil. The refusal was reported in the German press but did not come up in his meeting with Genscher.
Sunday evening, Arens was to have dinner with Rita Sussmuth, chairwoman of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. Sussmuth reportedly said recently that she could not visit Israel in an official capacity because the chairman of the Knesset, Dov Shilansky, refused to receive German guests.
Also on Sunday. Arens laid a wreath at a memorial built on the site of a former synagogue here, located on the bank of the Rhine River.
The foreign minister is due to follow up his stop in West Germany with a three-day visit to neighboring Denmark, where he will likewise test the diplomatic waters regarding Shamir’s election proposal.
In Copenhagen, Arens and his wife will be official guests of Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Elleman-Jensen, who invited his counterpart for a reciprocal visit, following his stay in Israel.
The Danish government is divided in its approach to dealing with the PLO, which maintains an office in Copenhagen without enjoying diplomatic statue.
The Danish Social Democratic Party invited PLO leader Yasir Arafat to visit Denmark, but the foreign minister refused to extend an official invitation.
In recent months, some leaders of the Social Democrats visited Arafat in his headquarters in Tunis. They followed this up with a visit to Israel.
Danish police are making tight security arrangements for the Arens visit.
(JTA Copenhagen correspondent Eli Kohen contributed to this report.)