UNITED NATIONS -- Declaring that the cooperation of Israel is "absolutely essential," U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar suggested yesterday a meeting of 164 nations to discuss ways of protecting Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar's tone was cautious but critical of Israel in the report to the U.N. Security Council in the wake of violence that killed 18 Palestinians in Jerusalem Oct. 8.
The secretary-general warned that the "potential for friction and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians has remained very high" but said that it was up to the Security Council to decide whether to send military or civilian observers to Jerusalem.
"It is essential . . . that progress be made, and soon," Mr. Perez de Cuellar declared as Arab states sympathetic to the Palestine Liberation Organization begin drafting a new Security Council resolution calling for either military or civilian U.N. observers to be sent to the region.
Whether the council will next consider Jerusalem or further Persian Gulf resolutions was the subject of behind-the-scenes discussions among Security Council members yesterday. It was understood that the United States was eager for the council to continue the gulf track and to consider Jerusalem later.
"The tragic events of Oct. 8 are only the most recent of many grave incidents in the [Israeli-occupied] territories that have resulted in the deaths and wounding of a large number of civilians," Mr. Perez de Cuellar said in the report.
He said that not only Palestinians but also "individuals from all walks of life in the territories" had conveyed the message to him that "far more is required on the part of the international community to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories."
The Security Council called for the secretary-general's report in a resolution it unanimously passed Oct. 12, condemning Israel for the killings in East Jerusalem.
When Mr. Perez de Cuellar sought to send a mission to the area, he was rebuffed by Israel. His report noted that Israeli authorities had told him "there is no room for any involvement on the part of the United Nations in any matter relating to Jerusalem."
Nonetheless, the secretary-general suggested that the Security Council might wish to call for a meeting of the signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention, covering the protection of civilians in territories occupied during a war. The convention was signed Aug. 12, 1949, and 164 countries, including Israel, are parties to the accord.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar said that such a meeting could discuss additional measures designed to protect Palestinians.
"There is no way Israel will accept an observer force," an Israeli diplomat said.
A PLO spokesman at the United Nations said he would have liked to have seen the secretary-general's report concentrate more on the protection of Palestinians through U.N. forces or observers.
"We think the report contains positive elements. It is a step in the right direction," said the spokesman, Riyad H. Mansour.