U.S. Says Talks With Arab Factions May Start by July
Talks between the United States and a Palestinian-Jordanian negotiating team on peace in the Mideast could get under way by July, State Department officials said Wednesday.
The officials said that Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy is prepared to travel to the Jordanian capital of Amman for procedural talks with a joint Arab delegation as soon as one is formed.
“Murphy’s ready to go as soon as things are ready,” one senior official said. “We’re not dragging our feet on this.”
Talks With Palestinians
The United States agreed to talk with the Palestinians in an attempt to set up direct talks between the Arabs and Israel. It acted in response to assurances from Jordan’s King Hussein, during a visit to Washington last week, that the Palestine Liberation Organization will not oppose the talks.
U.S. officials said no date for an initial meeting has been set but added that it has informally been agreed that the first meeting will be in Amman. The initial talks will be limited to procedural matters and ways of getting the parties to the negotiating table, they said. The United States earlier opposed such a meeting when the Arab side wanted to discuss issues of substance instead of procedure.
In Amman, a Jordanian government spokesman said he expects the talks to begin early in July. “It is just an expectation by both sides,” Information Minister Mohammed Khatib told Reuters news agency.
A major issue to be resolved before talks begin is the membership of the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation, U.S. officials said. The United States has said it will not negotiate with members of the PLO, but officials said the Palestinian representatives at the talks must be acceptable to the PLO.
U.S. officials have said one solution would be to name members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s so-called “parliament in exile,” who are not also members of PLO guerrilla groups.
‘No Formal List’
“It is no great secret that we have met with, do meet with, Palestinians--obviously, not PLO members,” State Department spokesman Edward P. Djerejian said. “Names of Palestinians who might be included in a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation have been floated informally. . . . But there is no formal list that we know of.”
Another State Department official briefed French leaders in Paris on Wednesday on the diplomatic initiative. Robert Pelletreau, a deputy assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, is also scheduled to visit London and Luxembourg.
Israel has remained cool to the talks but has not attempted to block them, officials said.