WASHINGTON (Jun. 16)
Sen. Richard Stone (D. Fla.) proposed today that the Carter Administration initiate “immediate face-to-face direct consultations” between the parties to the Middle East conflict. He said that such “unstructured consultations should take place without deadlines and without delays at the working levels to try to reach agreements about important practical problems, not only on the major divisive issues such as borders.”
Stone, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Near East and South Asian Affairs, announced his proposal at a press conference this morning. He had just completed reports to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski on his two-week official fact-finding tour of the Middle East from which he returned June 9. Stone said that in consultations “at this working level, ambassadors, their deputies and other officials have no advance public rhetoric of their own to harden their positions.”
The State Department said today that it had no comment on Stone’s proposal. The Senator emphasized that the proposal was “my idea.” He said he had discussed it with the leaders of Israel and the Arab states during his Middle East visit but that “it is premature to say I have the concurrence of any of the leaders.” He said he regarded his proposal as a supplement to the Carter Administration’s current efforts to bring about Mideast peace talks and that it “fits very well” into the Geneva conference concept. He recalled statements by Carter and Jordan’s King Hussein who visited Washington last month that there would be no point in reconvening the Geneva conference unless there was a high probability of success.
FOUND BEGIN ‘FLEXIBLE’ ON ALL ISSUES
During his Mideast trip, Stone met twice with Israel’s Premier-designate Menachem Begin, with King Hussein, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, President Hafez Assad of Syria and King Khalid of Saudi Arabia. He also visited Tunisia where he met President Habib Bourguiba. He said that he “heard very little in private that we have not heard in public.” He also said “Arab expectations in a short time are too high” but that “there is a chance of agreement in all of the issues over a period of time.” He warned that the chances for an agreement “would be less than bright” if the process is hurried and for that reason he proposed consultations “without deadlines” because “deadlines are deadly.” He said “all the Arab leaders said they wanted peace on their own terms. The question is whether both sides will take less.”
Stone was favorably impressed by Begin. He said the Likud leader “assured me of his flexibility and that he would be forthcoming on all issues on all fronts.” When a reporter asked if that included the West Bank, Stone said it is within the “concept of everything.” He said the PLO would not be a party to the consultations he proposed since they would be limited to those that have agreed to accept UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.