JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
Prime Minister Michel Rocard of France sought to assure Israelis on Monday that his country has not taken a pro-Arab tilt.
But he expressed concern to President Chaim Herzog over the slow progress of Middle East peace diplomacy and promised Palestinian leaders that France would play a more energetic role in the region.
Rocard wound up his daylong private visit Monday afternoon, after participating in a ceremony in Jaffa naming a street after a former predecessor, Pierre Mendes-France, who was Jewish.
Although Rocard’s trip was described as private, his schedule was filled with top-level discussions.
After touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum on Monday morning, Rocard met with Herzog, who told the French statesman that, contrary to his perception, the peace process is accelerating.
According to Israeli sources, Herzog said the parties are focusing on the “nuts and bolts” of the process, and that progress so far should be a source of optimism, when viewed against the broader context of regional affairs in the last 20 years.
Rocard also conferred with Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.
NO NEED TO FEAR EURO-ARAB TALKS
The French prime minister dined with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir at his home Sunday night, shortly after he arrived. The other guests included Arens, Deputy Premier David Levy, Justice Minister Dan Meridor and officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry.
In his conversations with Israeli policymakers, Rocard stressed that Israel has nothing to fear from President Francois Mitterrand’s initiative to revive the long-moribund Euro-Arab dialogue.
At the French president’s invitation, the foreign ministers of the 24 Arab League countries will meet in Paris with the 12 European Community foreign ministers on Friday.
The Palestine Liberation Organization was also invited.
Rocard insisted that Israel need not worry about the economic integration of the E.C. that will begin in 1992.
Rocard met at the French Consulate General on Monday with 13 Palestinian leaders and, in response to their strong urging, promised that his government would seek a more active role in regional peacemaking.
Spokesmen for both sides said they discussed the current diplomatic efforts centered on U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s five-point proposal for dialogue, but gave no details.
The Palestinians invite to meet Rocard represented all sections of the nationalist movement, except the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas, whose representatives reportedly were not asked to the meeting.
Those who met with Rocard included Faisal Husseini, Hanna Siniora and Sari Nusseibeh of East Jerusalem; Fayez Abu-Rahmen of Gaza and Radwan Abu-Aish, head of the Palestinian Journalists Association.