Israeli Sees Movement on Mideast Talks
Efforts to initiate new Mideast peace talks have entered an intensive stage of “quiet diplomacy” in which the United States is in “close, almost day-to-day contact with all sides involved,” a senior Israeli official said here Sunday.
The official, who briefed foreign journalists on condition that he not be named, said the American mediation effort is focused on two issues that have emerged in a recent flurry of diplomacy as the key obstacles to a new round of Arab-Israeli talks: the nature of an international forum that could serve as an umbrella for negotiations, and the makeup of the Palestinian team that will participate.
The official painted a relatively positive picture of progress in the peace process despite the disappointment of others within the Israeli government over King Hussein’s speech on Saturday opening a session of Jordan’s Parliament.
Hussein appeared in those remarks to spurn Israel’s offer of direct peace talks between the two countries in favor of a conference involving all parties to the Mideast conflict.
‘A Comprehensive Peace’
Hussein reiterated his call for an international conference in an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that only in such a context will it be possible to reach “a comprehensive peace” that can deal with the Palestinian problem “in all its aspects.”
In the interview, Hussein also underscored his support of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. But in a reference to recent terrorist incidents, the king said that in order to be involved in the peace process, the PLO must “determine what actions” it must take.
During a meeting with Yasser Arafat last week, Hussein apparently demanded that his organization abandon terrorism. He said Sunday that he is “expecting some answers soon” from Arafat.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has officially dropped his country’s flat rejection of an international peace conference. In remarks to the Knesset last week, he said Israel would accept such a forum for talks under four conditions: that the international conference supplement, rather than replace, direct talks between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation; that only those nations maintaining diplomatic relations with the sides involved are acceptable sponsors; that the international forum not be empowered to “impose solutions or cancel agreements” reached in direct talks, and that representatives to the talks “represent peace, not terror.”
Hussein said Sunday that “ideally” an international conference would be “attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council . . . and with the participation of all the parties--the Arab parties, including the Palestinians, and the government of Israel.”
Finding some way to bridge the gap between the Jordanian and Israeli positions will thus apparently require the cooperation of the Soviet Union. The subject is believed to be on the agenda for Secretary of State George P. Shultz’s scheduled talks in Moscow starting today.
Want Soviet Ties
Israel would like the Soviets to renew diplomatic ties, which the Kremlin broke during the 1967 Middle East War, and has indicated that it would drop its objection to the Soviets’ participation in the peace process if they did so.
The problem of Palestinian participation may be tougher to resolve. Peres has pledged as part of his government’s coalition agreement not to negotiate with the PLO. Washington has said the PLO would be an acceptable interlocutor if it first accepts two U.N. resolutions that implicitly recognize Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.
Asked if he expects Arafat to issue such a statement, Hussein said Sunday, “As the international conference idea jells and becomes a reality, I see such a move by the PLO taking place.”
Palestinian sources here and in Amman have said that Hussein has already assured Arafat that if he issues such a statement, the United States will drop its objections to PLO participation in later stages of the peace process.
A senior Israeli official said Sunday that Wat T. Cluverius IV, a top American diplomat named last week to a new Middle East post is expected to concentrate his initial efforts on coming up with a delegation of non-PLO Palestinians acceptable to all parties for first-stage peace talks.