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Europe Seeking Ways to Challenge Arab Oil Embargo

November 29, 1973
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West German Chancellor Willy Brandt has launched an appeal for European solidarity “in the face of the challenge which threatens our very existence: the energy crisis.” Brandt made his appeal after a day of consultations with French President Georges Pompidou. Throughout his talks with Pompidou and in the toast he proposed Monday night at the Elysee Palace state banquet, Brandt called for a joint West European stand. He said that such a stand was necessary to resolve the energy crisis and for the sake of further talks with the United States.

The French position, as made known by official spokesmen today, is more reserved. “France feels that European unity must be treated as a whole and not deal exclusively with the oil shortage,” the spokesman said. The French also made it known to Brandt that Holland has usually in the past opposed European political unification and had also reevaluated its currency, the florin, a few months ago without taking into consideration or even consulting its European partners. The French thus feel that Europe should strive towards greater political unity and that other questions would thus resolve themselves. It is believed that West Germany has partially agreed to the French thesis and will support this stand next month in Copenhagen at the forthcoming European summit conference.

Meanwhile, two Arab oil ministers called here yesterday for more direct European intervention in the Middle East “to force Israel to withdraw” from the occupied territories. The two, Algerian Minister for oil production and OPEC President Belaid Abdessalam, and Saudi Arabia’s minister for oil industries Ahmed Zaki Yamani, made their position known during meetings with President Georges Pompidou, Foreign Minister Michel Jobert and on a number of radio and television interviews. Abdessalam and Yamani arrived here yesterday on the first leg of an “explanatory trip” which will take them to London, Brussels, Rome, Bonn and Washington. In the course of a television interview last night, Abdessalam said, “I would not be shocked to see European troops militarily intervene in the Middle East to evict Israel from the occupied territories.”

The two warned that unless Israel withdraws or at least hands over a withdrawal timetable, the Arab countries will continue to reduce their oil production by 5 percent per month. The two ministers said that the Brussels resolution issued by the nine EEC members earlier this month “is too weak and too ambiguous.” They called for “more energetic language and concrete action.” They refused to spell out what measures they had in mind saying only “it is for Europe itself to decide.” When told that the rest of Europe has a certain responsibility towards Holland, the Algerian minister said: “We also feel solidarity towards our Palestinian brethren and their situation is far worse than that of the Dutch.”

Practically all the French officials they met, including the newsmen who interviewed them, stressed that the oil embargo hits mainly Europe and Japan and leaves practically untouched Israel’s main ally. America. The ministers said that America will increasingly feel the embargo and that “in any case it is Europe’s task to make it feel responsible for the world shortage.” They also said that Japan will henceforth enjoy the treatment accorded to Europe and will not suffer any special shortages. They warned that should any country take counter-measures “oil production would be immediately further reduced and could be cut to zero.”They also said that the Arab states could use a “monetary campaign” to hit American and European economies unless a solution to the Middle East crisis is found in the near future.

It was announced today in Brussels that the two ministers, due to arrive here Friday, are expected to hold talks with the Foreign Minister, the Economic Affairs Minister, EEC Commission President, and EEC Commission Vice-President who is in charge of energy problems. Before this was announced, Belgian Foreign Minister Renaat van Enslande told the Belgian Parliament that the government is calling on Israel to withdraw from all occupied territory. He also called for a “solution to the Palestinian problem” and recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in conformity with United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

In Bonn, Dr. Erich Riedl, opposition Christian Social Union MP, today called on the West German government to review its relations with the Arab states in view of recent events. He said that attitudes toward Israel should not be tampered with, however. Riedl, who had talks last week in Cairo with Egyptian leaders, said that the Arab states wanted to use the oil threat to get West Germany to apply its influence on the U.S. and Israel. At the same time, Kurt Thuerk, opposition Christian Democrat MP, urged the European community not to supply Egypt with a promised 451,000 tons of wheat. He said delivery should be frozen at least until Cairo had succeeded in stopping the current oil boycott. Thuerk said wheat was just as vital to Egypt as oil was to Western Europe.

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