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E.c. Rules out Arafat Contact Because of His Support of Iraq

February 21, 1991
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The European Community, about to embark on new diplomatic initiative in the Middle East, has ruled out official contact with Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, because of his support of Saddam Hussein.

“In light of the overtly pro-Iraqi statements Arafat made, we decided not to have official contact with Arafat,” Jacques Poos, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, told a news conference there Tuesday.

Poos, current chairman of the E.C. Council of Ministers, spoke after the 12 E.C. foreign ministers, met in special session in Luxembourg to define an overall postwar Middle East policy.

The E.C. has always insisted that the PLO must participate in the regional peace process. While Poos specifically rejected Arafat, he did not exclude other representatives of the PLO from future discussions.

“It’s up to the Palestinian people to designate its own representatives,” he added.

British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said the PLO “has done itself very considerable harm under the present leadership in backing the aggression of Saddam Hussein.”

The statement released by the ministers after their meeting made no mention of the PLO. It hinted at flexibility on the issue of an international peace conference, which the E.C. supports but Israel opposes.

“The Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question are fundamental sources of instability in the region,” the statement read, adding that “the international community should make renewed urgent efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting solution.”

In that connection, the ministers maintained that “a properly structured international conference at an appropriate time will provide a suitable framework for negotiations.”

They stressed that “such a conference will require serious preparation.”


But a senior official observed that “the spirit with which the 12 member states are tackling the post-crisis situation (in the region) is not one of imposing solutions.”

Diplomatic sources said that given Israel’s opposition to an international conference, the E.C. ministers might be willing to back the idea of direct Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The E.C.’s Middle East initiatives are spear-headed by its so-called troika, consisting of the current chairman of the Council of Ministers and his immediate predecessor and successor.

The troika is scheduled to meet Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy in Luxembourg and later with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Syria.

It will meet subsequently with the ministers of the five North African states — Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania — which comprise the Union of Arab Maghreb. The meeting will be held in Libya, which chairs the union.

Also scheduled are talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all aligned with the U.S. coalition fighting Iraq.

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