BRUSSELS (Mar. 3)
The leadership of the European Community has confirmed in a formal statement that the E.C. is boycotting contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, because of Yasir Arafat’s support for Iraq during the Persian Gulf crisis.
But the statement by Foreign Minister Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, current chairman of the E.C. Council of Ministers, underscores that the decision does not undercut the standing of the PLO itself or Palestinian rights. It calls on the Palestinian people to choose new representatives.
“In view of Mr. Arafat’s numerous messages of support for the aggressor, Saddam Hussein,” the statement says, the E.C. foreign ministers have agreed under “the present circumstances not to plan any high-level contact between the E.C. presidency and the PLO.”
“The Palestinian people will choose its own representatives, whom we shall respect and whom all the concerned parties shall respect,” the statement says.
The PLO representative in Brussels, Chawki Armali, was informed of the decision on Feb. 17. Armali called the decision not to meet Arafat an “error” and stressed it could be blamed on an “outburst of temper” by Poos.
The E.C. decision also drew sharp reactions from the PLO leadership. In Tunis, at the group’s headquarters, Bassam Abu Sharif, one of Arafat’s closest advisers, criticized Poos for “allowing himself to designate the representatives of the Palestinian people.”
LEVY PLAN CALLED ‘ENCOURAGING’
The E.C. move is one more indication that the PLO leadership, especially Arafat, has lost its standing because of its pro-Iraq stance. Leaders of both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, formerly primary financiers of the PLO, have announced in no uncertain terms that they have cut the cord to the PLO.
The PLO was excluded from a list of Middle East parties that would be seen by the so-called E.C. “troika,” made up of the current, next and immediate past chairmen of the Council of Ministers.
The troika, currently made up of the foreign ministers of Luxembourg, Italy and Holland, had canceled scheduled meetings that were to be held with their counterparts from Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Libya and Syria because of developments in the Gulf war.
David Levy, Israel’s foreign minister, had been scheduled to meet with the E.C. chiefs last Monday. No new dates have been set for the meetings.
At a meeting last week of the European Parliament, the E.C.’s legislative body, which meets in Strasbourg, France, the group’s political director called a recent letter from Levy to Poos “encouraging for the future with regard to the Palestinian question.”
In the letter, Levy called for an end to the state of belligerency between Israel and the Arab states, “in order to make progress and prepare the ground for global peace negotiations.”
He called for direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors and parallel discussions over a solution to the Palestinian problem.