British foreign Secretary Lord Carrington sees the Arab-israeli conflict developing into a "very dangerous" situation unless the Palestinian question is resolved.
A European peace initiative aimed at facilitating a solution to the question, the Foreign Secretary indicated, would be required before the end of the year.
Lord carrington, here for meetings with President Carter and other US officials, does not think an agreement on "autonomy" between Egypt and Israel is going to resolve the question.
But the Foreign Secretary does not think the United States, in this election year, is in any position to undertake a new Middle East peace initiative.
The Western Europeans, therefore, must help push toward a solution and propose an initiative of their own, Lord Carrington said in a breakfast meeting with reporters May 6.
Such a European initiative, he said, has not yet been worked out. But, as he sees it, it would not undercut US efforts.It would instead "supplement" United Nations Resolution 242, which, in effect, calls for Israeli withdrawal from Israeli-occupied Arab territories in return for recognition of Israel's right to live in a peace within secure and recognized borders.
Lord Carrington made clear that he thinks the three main crises in the Middle East -- the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iranian turmoil, and the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan -- cannot be viewed in isolation from each other and that the Arab-Israeli conflict tends to exacerbate other tensions.
Some American Middle East analysts would agree. They think further that the re cent seizure of the Iranian Embassy in London is but one more manifestation of regional tensions and may have had support or encouragement from Iraq, a traditional foe of Iran.
According to Judith Kippur, a Middle East analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, a just solution of the Palestinian problem would constitute a "vital first step" toward resolving a number of such regional tensions. To begin with, it would reflect an American appreciation of nationalist sentiment and rising expectations in the region. It would thereby allow Arab nations to assert their true positions and perhaps move into a new and more stable relationship with the United States that would be of greater benefit to the vital interests of both sides.
Ms. Kippur doubts, though, whether a European initiative, without American support, would go far at this stage toward resolving the Palestinian question. She does think it might have impact on American and Israeli public opinion. But she quotes Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, with whom she spoke two weeks ago, as saying that such a European initiative is coming too late.
The Chancellor, who was the first leader among the European democracies to extend something close to diplomatic recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the most effective next step that could be taken would be for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to announce that he can no longer work with the Begin government in Israel. Under his suggestion, President Sadat would make clear that he was waiting for the advent of a new Israeli government before further progress could be made.
Although Lord Carrington did not say so, a European initiative on the Middle East would be expected to involve the drafting of a UN resolution that would call for recognition of the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinians, including the right of self-determination. It would leave open the possibility that a Palestinian state might be established on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River, a possibility that is strongly opposed by Israel.
When talk of a European initiative arose earlier this year. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Sol Linowitz, the chief Mideast negotiator for the US, asked the European not to undertake such an initiative until at least after May 26, the target date for the completion of the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy. According to Mr. Linowitz, the Europeans then put their initiative "on hold."
A State Department spokesman said May 6, "We think right now we have adequate UN resolutions."
But Lord Carrington told reporters the West could ill afford to do nothing. He said that if the Western allies acted together on Iran and on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but failed to move on the Palestinian question, the Arabs would draw negative conclusions from the contrast.