France signed a joint communique with Kuwait today calling for self-determination for the Palestinian people.
French officials said the joint statement signed by President Valery Giscard d'Estaing was the first document signed by a mayor Western power with an Arab state to make the call for self-determination. The communique, however, followed a long line of earlier French statements pointing in the same direction.
The joint statement also provided for French petroleum companies to buy their oil directly from the Kuwaitis without dealing through the British or American firms that have dominated the Kuwait oil industry. But there was no indication whether France would get more oil than before.
In another development, Kuwait's oil minister, Sheik Ali Khalifa Sabah, said his country was prepared to sell oil to the Soviet Union and East Bloc countries if asked.
The statement, made to reporters accompanying Giscard, coincided with a Czechoslovak newspaper comment that the East European communist nations could not depend on the Soviet Union to meet fuel oil needs and should buy more fuel from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
The French call for Palestinian self-determination was the latest in a series of diplomatic setbacks for Israel.
It followed the U.S. vote in the United Nations against Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as repeated recent references by British Foreign Minister Lord Carrington to "the legitimate political rights of the Palestinians, which go well beyound their status as refugees."
Despite the use of the term "self-determination," which Israeli officials consider a code word for an independent state, French officials noted that the communique called for that "self-determination" only "in the frame-work of a just and permanent peace for the region."
Recalling the British position, the communique said that "the Palestinian problem is not a problem of refugees." This is a reference to the growing view in Western Europe that U.N. Resolution 242, which has been the basis for all Middle East peace talks so far, is outdated because it calls for a settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem rather than providing for a Palestinian territorial entity.
Washington Post London correspondent Leonard Downie reported that British officials were nevertheless "mystified" by today's French move, which was made with "no warning" to France's partners in the European Community. Lord Carrington has been carrying the ball for a communitywide approach, and the British apparently feel that Giscard is complicating matters by getting slightly ahead of the others.