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West Germans cultivate Euro-Arab link with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal has publicly endorsed the June 13 European Community (EC) Mideast statement -- but with reservations. He told a Bonn press conference June 19 that "positive aspects" of the statement included the first-ever general European declaration of principles including self-determination for Palestinians. He also found it "healthy" that special mention was made of the issue of legality of Israeli "settlement on Arab territory" and of the status of Jerusalem.

Prince Faisal regretted, however, "some vagueness" in the European statement on Palestinian representation by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and "the necessity of the return of Arab jurisdiction over Jerusalem."

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The other outcomes of the June 16-19 Saudi Arabian visit to West Germany were a West German offer to train Saudi officers and an implicit assertion of European and West German political involvement in the Mideast.

The visit by King Khalid, his foreign, defense, finance, and industry ministers, and an entourage of supporting specialists, was king Khalid's second state trip abroad since he assumed the throne in 1975. The visit went far beyond a courtesy bow to the 8.7 billion deutsche mark ($5 billion) annual bilateral trade relations that now supply West Germany with a quarter of its oil and Saudi Arabia with much of its industrialization plant and technology.

Notably, the four days of intensive Saudi discussions with West Germany President Karl Carstens, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and the West German defense, finance, and economics ministers, covered the gamut of world political and economic issues. Notably, they included Saudi Arabia in the preparation for the imminent big seven summit of the industrialized West in Venice.

The Saudi-West German talks thus fit neatly into West Germany's post-Afghanistan concept of a "division of labor" between the US and Europe. The idea of this is that the medium-size European countries and the EC Nine working together, can cultivate third-world links that the US might have difficulty in creating because of the superpower's frightening size -- or because of domestic political restraints like the US Jewish lobby.

The aim of the European third-world nurturing -- and especially of the "Euro-Arab dialogue" that the EC statement sought to revive -- would be to strengthen economic and political stability. It would also encourage moderation in those volatile regions threatened by Soviet military intimidation.

This concept clearly appeals to Saudi Arabi, a Mideast moderate that wishes to avert both Soviet expansion and Arab radicalism -- but not at the cost of Arab unity. Both Prince Faisal and West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher specifically stressed their commonality of views of Afghanistan, the Mideast, and international economic and energy questions.

On the Afghan issue Mr. Genscher reiterated that the crisis can only be solved by the withdrawal of Soviet troops; he specifically supported the Islamic conference attempt to secure such withdrawal and a political solution by setting up a mediating "committee of three."

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In international economic issues the Saudi as well as the West German side called for curbs on inflation, for conservation and rationalization of oil use, and for development of alternative energy sources.

In Mideast issues Prince Faisal dismissed as "not serious" the Israeli government invitation to Saudi representatives to come address the Knesset. (Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made the gesture two and a half years ago leading to the Camp David talks and the estrangement of Egypt from the rest of the Arab world). The Saudi foreign minister deflected a question about Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement by saying that the important thing was rapproachement between Egypt and the Arab world as a whole.

a more active West German role in the Mideast was fore-shadowed by Bonn's offer to include Saudi Arabian officers and troops in military training programs for foreigners in West Germany. A defense ministry spokesman stressed that no Saudi decision has been made, but said that Saudis would be welcome to join other foreigners already training here.

At the moment the only other Arabs in military training here are three Yemenis. The only other Mideast trainees here are some 130 Iranians in programs begun under the Shah and continued after the Iranian revolution. Israeli officers have taken some training here in the past, but there are none in West Germany at present.

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