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Kreisky Optimistic About Reagan’s Mideast Initiative

February 7, 1983
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Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky indicated here that he was optimistic about the prospects for President Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative but was “skeptical” about an early withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Kreisky’s remarks were made at a press conference last Thursday after his two-hour meeting with Reagan at the White House earlier in the day in which the main topics of discussion were the Mideast and Poland.

The Austrian Chancellor denied he had carried any message from Arab leaders to Reagan, noting that the President has established “close” relations with Arab leaders and “doesn’t need me as a go-between.” But he said he gave Reagan his “impressions” of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat with whom Kreisky has met.

Kreisky said he is “skeptical” about an early withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon because both Israel and Syria “like to have their troops in Lebanon.” However, he said Reagan was “quite optimistic” about the prospects for withdrawal.


The Austrian leader said that he believed that there was “plenty of room” between the “new approach” in Reagan’s peace initiative and the Arab League’s Fez communique for “exploratory talks” between the Arabs and the West.

He said that while Israel would not take part in these exploratory talks they could “create an opinion” that would influence Israel. But he warned that it is “very important” that the momentum not be lost.

In this context, Kreisky expressed the hope that the Palestine National Council take the “realistic” approach which he said was being taken by Arafat. He said the Palestinians should take note that in Washington he found “no longer” a “negative attitude” to the “Palestine Liberation movement as there has been in the past.”

He said that the Camp David accords were “important” for an Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement but “not for the solution of the Palestinian problem.” He said the Reagan peace initiative is a “step forward” because it shows understanding of the Palestinian problem.

Kreisky said the Palestinians should also see change in what he called “quite a significant speech” by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress to the WJC’s Governing Board which held its biennial meeting here last week. Bronfman stressed the right of Jews to criticize Israeli government policy.

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