The Palestine Liberation Organization issued a statement today harshly attacking the European Community's Middle East declaration, describing it as contradictory, ambiguous and the result of U.S. pressures to rescue the Camp David peace accords.
The statement, which was released this afternoon, blasted the Common Market for not clearly favoring an independent Palestinian state and for failing to recognize the PLO as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people.
The Common Market declaration, issued Friday in Venice at a summit of the heads of government of the nine member countries, mentioned the PLO only once, saying it "will have to be associated with [Middle East] negotiations."
This was the first official reference the Common Market has ever made to the PLO.
Some Palestinians initially had greeted even that recognition with muffled tones of praise yesterday. But in today's official statement, the PLO executive committee charged that the European stand was the outcome of "American pressures and blackmail!" and dismissed the declaration as a veiled attempt to rescue the stalled Camp David process and to drag Arab states into it.
The PLO stressed that it favors resistance to the Camp David accords and to attempts to introduce autonomous rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"The European declaration was, to a large extent, a clear response to American desires and pressure aimed at imposing U.S. domination on the Arab region," the PLO statement said.
Although the Common Market declaration underlined the Palestinians' right to self-determination, the PLO offered a thorough critique of the European resolution.
In its statement, the PLO said it had never had any illusions about the Western European role, which in the past has been closely linked with the U.S. strategy to bring about a peace settlement. But the PLO also vowed to continue its struggle, both diplomatically and militarily, to seek further Western European and international support.
Before the Common Market declaration on Friday, PLO leader Yassar Arafat said that the Europeans were meeting in Venice "so as to find some bone they could throw us to keep us busy.
"I tell them the Palestinian people [are] in no need for a political statement or initiative to a determine [their] destiny," he added, and asserted that Palestinian destiny will be determined by the "freedom fighter's gun."
Observers here noted that the comminique's negative tone seemed to indicate that hawks within the PLO had gained the upper hand at a meeting held by the secretaries general of all eight Palestinian groups Saturday night. The meeting included George Habash of the Marxist-leaning Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the pro-Soviet Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The PLO newspaper Falastin at Thwra ran a front-page editorial today acknowledging "progress in the Europeans stance," but critizing the Europeans for failing to recognize that "the call for Palestinian self-determination and the official recognition of the PLO and an independent Palestinian state [are] still miles and miles apart."