BONN (Oct. 17)
The Palestine Liberation Organization achieved its highest level of official contact with the West German government Monday when Bassam Abu Sharif, a senior adviser to PLO chief Yasir Arafat, was received by the political director of the Bonn Foreign Ministry, Jurgen Sudhoff.
The Israeli Embassy promptly protested, expressing “deep regret” that a Foreign Ministry official met “a high-level representative of a terror organization.”
The Israeli statement said the meeting was all the more negative because it lent political weight to the PLO, thereby interfering with ongoing efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Sudhoff reiterated after the meeting that Bonn stood by its longstanding position that the conflict should be resolved through an international peace conference with the participation of the PLO.
Israel’s protest was expected. Some West German diplomats feared the Israelis would bring up Bonn’s special relationship with Israel arising from the Holocaust.
But the embassy statement contained no hint of Germany’s Nazi past.
The Israelis apparently realized that such a reaction would backfire, setting off another round of anti-Israel rhetoric in the Western German news media.
In any event, Sudhoff, who once was press attache at the West German Embassy in Tel Aviv, is known as a sincere friend of Israel.
PRESSURE ON KOHL’S PARTY
His meeting with Abu Sharif is believed to have been the result of pressure on Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s conservative government after the opposition Social Democratic Party’s announcement several months ago that it intended to invite a PLO delegation to Bonn.
Kohl’s right-wing coalition apparently did not want to appear “out of touch” with political realities, one inside source explained Tuesday.
Another official observed privately that the PLO was legitimized by the United States when Washington decided to open a dialogue with it in Tunis last December.
It has taken Bonn more than 10 months to catch up, the official said.
Other government sources pointed out that the PLO contacts are in line with decisions by the 12-nation European Community to contribute to Middle East peace efforts by maintaining lines of communications with all parties to the conflict.
Independent observers here believe that Bonn is cautiously testing Israeli reactions to expanding contacts with the PLO.
Only last month, the PLO’s permanent representative here, Abdahalla Frangi, was allowed for the first time to visit the Foreign Ministry for a talk with a high-level official.
Frangi was arrested by the German authorities in the 1970s on suspicion of planning terrorist acts. He was barred from the German Federal Republic.
But the ban was lifted after a legal battle and probably as a result of Arab political pressure and his personal status. Frangi is married to a West German.