The leaders of the 12 European Community member states said here Tuesday that they welcomed with “interest” Israel’s peace initiative, but insisted that the Palestine Liberation Organization must participate in Middle East peace negotiations.
The policy statement, the first by the E.C. heads of state and government since their Venice Declaration of June 1980, was released at the end of a two-day summit conference.
It affirms, in fact, that the Venice Declaration remains the basis of European policy in the Middle East. That declaration recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including self-determination.
But whereas the Venice document called for the PLO to be “associated” with the peace process, the document issued here demands its full participation.
Diplomatic sources said the change is an acknowledgment of the moderation shown by PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
The Middle East text was adopted as an annex to a political declaration on various issues.
It could not have come as anything but a disappointment to Israel, particularly after the strenuous lobbying by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens in European capitals in recent weeks.
The two politicians had urged abandonment of the idea of an international conference in favor of the Israeli plan.
While the E.C. leaders gave qualified approval to the Israeli plan, they maintained that an international conference under U.N. auspices remains by far the better way to achieve peace in the region.
“Irritation” is expressed with Israel for its reluctance to accept the conference scenario.
Mark Eyskens, the new foreign minister of Belgium, told a news conference that the Europeans had expressed their anger over that issue.
WELCOME PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS
While the European leaders welcomed the suggestion of Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they said the elections should be held in the context of a process aimed at a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement.
It should take place in the administered territories — including East Jerusalem — with adequate guarantees that it will be free and fair.
Moreover, the election process should not exclude any other solutions to the conflict, the E.C. leaders said.
The declaration calls on Israel to implement the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilian populations in time of war, and to end repressive measures against the Palestinian population.
It appeals in particular for Israel to reopen Palestinian schools in the territories, which it shut down for security reasons.
The statement was issued only three days before Spain relinquishes the rotating chairmanship of the E.C. Council of Ministers to France on July 1.
French President Francois Mitterand is, if anything, even more devoted than most of his colleagues to the concept of an international conference.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.