GENEVA (May. 5)
Secretary-General U Thant said here yesterday that he feared the situation in the Middle East “may get out of hand” if the U.S., Soviet Russia, Britain and France “do not agree on the substantive issues…in the next two months or so.” Mr. Thant spoke to newsmen at the airport prior to his departure for Rome.
In reply to questions, he defined “substantive issues” as “the substance of the solutions within the framework of the Security Council resolution of November, 1967.” The Secretary-General said that when he returned to New York he would be briefed by the Four Powers on the progress of their Mideast talks during his absence. “On the basis of my discussions with them. I shall have to decide on what initiatives I should take,” he said. He said the re-activation of the peace mission of UN special envoy Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring also depended on what stage of progress the Four Powers reached in their talks.
Asked if he was optimistic that something could be done, Mr. Thant replied, “I must say that I agree with the assessment of the permanent members of the Security Council that the situation in the Middle East is serious and that it needs urgent attention.” He said he did not know whether Israel and Egypt were prepared to agree to his latest proposals to increase the protection of UN cease fire observers in the Suez Canal zone. “Up to this morning, no replies have come in,” he said.