Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

British Foreign Secretary Says Big Powers Have Made Progress on Mideast

September 24, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart of Britain said today that, contrary to the general impression, the Big Four had made progress in their quest for a Mideast peace. The progress he cited was the fact that there was agreement on the part of the Big Four to a statement they issued last Saturday that the Mideast states have the right to exist in security as independent states.

The statement, issued following a dinner given by Secretary-General U Thant for the Four, re-endorsed the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution and cited the aim of a “durable peace.”

Mr. Stewart reiterated his view that, while progress is slow and “frustrating,” the Big Four must continue their consultations with a view to halting the escalating warfare between the Arabs and Israel. He also noted that there had been progress in the Soviet-American bilateral talks. He said he did not believe that any solution reached by the Big Four could–or should–be imposed on the parties to the conflict.

Mr. Stewart said that it was probable that if the Big Two or Big Four could reach an agreement on a settlement, the parties would grumble and be disappointed to some extent. Arab and Israeli would hopefully see in such a case that while the solution was not 100 percent acceptable, it would be better than continuing the fighting, Mr. Stewart said.

In any case, he declared, the Mideast disputants would have to think seriously about rejecting any agreement reached by the major powers. Throughout the Big Four or Big Two talks, he said, it was important that the Arabs and Israel be kept informed of what was being said and done.


Meanwhile, the Middle East crisis continued to dominate debate in the 24th General Assembly. Most speakers held that the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 Mideast resolution was the one way to peace in the area but they were no closer than a year ago to agreeing on its proper interpretation.

The Foreign Minister of Egypt told the United Nations General Assembly that withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory occupied in the Six-Day War was “an absolute necessity” and he asserted that the “fundamental contradiction between what he called Israel’s policy of expansion and the provisions of the Nov. 22, 1967 Security Council resolution had brought the Jarring mission to a standstill.

Mahmoud Riad added a new element of vituperation to the debate when he assailed “racist Zionism” and ascribed to it guilt for the arson at El Aksa mosque.

In a long speech, he denounced Israeli “terror” measures against the Arabs in the occupied areas, accused Israel of sabotaging peace prospects opened by the Security Council resolution and said that Israel, by its policies of aggression and expansion was threatening world peace.

Mr. Riad also blasted the United States because, he said, it continued to support Israel in the military, political and financial spheres while Israel continued to occupy Arab territories. American Sky hawk and Phantom planes, he asserted, were being used every day to raid the Arab peoples and kill them. He accused the United States of violating the UN Charter and its previous commitments.


An Israeli Mission spokesman said Mr. Riad’s speech confirmed Egypt’s “intransigence” and did not “contain any expression of willingness to establish real peace with Israel, to negotiate peace with Israel, and to work out together with Israel secure and recognized boundaries.”

He said that the speech “distorted” the Security Council resolution of Nov. 22, 1967 which called for a just and lasting peace, not a return to the armistice regime. Mr. Riad, the Israeli spokesman said, gave lip service to the resolution but, in fact, “rejects the essential elements of peace and a departure from the vulnerability and chaos of the armistice.”

The spokesman stressed the Egyptian failure to take note of Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s offer to enter into negotiations for a peaceful settlement without any conditions and his ignoring of Mr. Eban’s statement that the word “non-negotiable” was not in the Israeli vocabulary.

Earlier, Youssef Salem, the Lebanese Foreign Minister, accused Israel of “contempt for the United Nations” and said peaceful declarations by Israeli leaders were designed to lull international opinion. He asserted that Gen. Dayan, in a speech on July 8, 1968, had said Israel would go beyond the present cease-fire lines into Jordan, probably Lebanon and perhaps central Syria.

He charged that Israel had “unilaterally denounced” the Israel-Lebanon armistice agreement of March 23, 1949, but insisted Lebanon still considered this agreement valid. He expressed solidarity with Egypt and Jordan and called for immediate implementation of the Nov. 22, 1967 Security Council resolution.


A new, hard line by Jordan was indicated Monday by that country’s representative, Foreign Minister Abdel Monem Rifai, who accused the U.S. of blocking peace efforts by backing Israel’s interpretation that boundary agreements must precede any withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Arab territories.

Britain’s Foreign Minister, Michael Stewart, in his opening address, called on the parties to the conflict to accept all provisions of the resolution as a package and to stop accepting some parts of it and rejecting others. Mr. Stewart declared that his Government stood solidly behind Big Power peace efforts, whether through Four Power talks, bilateral talks between the U.S. and the Soviet Union or the two combined with the aid of U.S. special peace envoy, Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. Mr. Stewart warned that the parties concerned “must not expect any nation, whether in Four Power or Two Power talks or any other forum, to act merely as advocates. They must act more constructively than that,” he said.

Mr. Rifai assailed Israel’s position that withdrawal was conditional on the establishment of so-called agreed boundaries. He declared that this violated the terms and spirit of the Security Council resolution and suggested that Israel was trying thereby to gain Arab territory beyond the boundaries that existed on June 4, 1967, the day before the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war. As long as Israel maintains this position, there is no hope for a peaceful settlement, he said.

Mr. Rifai charged that the attitude of the U.S., as far as it is known on this important point, has not made it possible for the Four Power talks to yield fruitful results. He said Israel’s strategy was to confront the world with a fait accompli by absorbing the areas under occupation and opposing UN or Big Power intervention. In this connection, he said, the delivery to Israel of Phantom jets by the U.S. was unjustifiable. He said those deliveries, far from intimidating the Arabs, had “bred resentment and a revolutionary spirit” throughout the Arab world. He praised Arab guerrillas operating against Israel as “gallant young men” representing “the spirit of the young in all the Arab world.”

Mr. Stewart deplored the deterioration of the Mideast situation since the Assembly convened last and the failure of diplomatic efforts by the Big Powers so far. He said in his Government’s view “we should not be dogmatic as to the method of settlement. Consultations of Four Powers, or of Two Powers; the work, in consultation with them, of Dr. Jarring, may all be helpful… In our view nobody ought to say, ‘we insist on one method and one method alone.’ If at any time one method proves impossible, we must all be prepared to try others … As to the form of the settlement, this must place inescapable obligations on all the parties to live at peace with each other and to respect each other’s frontiers… We must remember the importance of respecting Security Council resolutions. The content of the settlement must put into effect all the provisions of the November resolution… Withdrawal, just and lasting peace, and indeed everything in that resolution. The problem has been to fashion from the resolution a workable package or program of parallel actions to be performed by the parties… When any one, any nation is attempting to frame such a package, he must say to himself, ‘I will not reject any particular proposal merely because I think it would be distasteful to any party in the dispute to whom I may be favorably disposed. I will rather ask myself about any proposal these questions: Is it fair, is it workable, will it be durable, is it in conformity with the Security Council resolution?”

Recommended from JTA