PARIS (Jul. 6)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s opposition to an international peace conference is the chief obstacle to peace in the Middle East, French President Francois Mitterrand and visiting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed Wednesday.
Gorbachev said an international conference is the “only rational approach” to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The two leaders spoke at a joint news conference here at the end of Gorbachev’s two-day visit to France. The Middle East apparently was high on their agenda.
According to Gorbachev, a peace conference “would meet the interests of all the parties and the security needs of the State of Israel.”
But such a conference can be convened only if agreed to by all parties to the conflict, Mitterrand said. “And Mr. Shamir’s plan is opposed to the conference.”
He was referring to Shamir’s peace initiative, which calls for, among other things, Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Shamir opposes the international conference concept, claiming that such a forum would subject Israel to undue world pressure. He prefers direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.