Washington (Feb. 24)
— Secretary of State Alexander Haig said today that he will go to the Middle East at a “reasonably early” date to follow up on the conversations that Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir concluded today at a half-hour meeting with President Reagan at the White House.
“I clearly am anxious to go” to the area to “continue the momentum on the peace process and conclude the kinds of consultations which started here” last week with Shamir’s visit, Haig said. He and Shamir met with the press immediately after the meeting with Reagan.
Discussions on the Middle East will continue at the top level here later this week when Haig meets with French Foreign Minister Jean Francois Poncet, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington.
SHAMIR SEES FRUITFUL RESULTS
Shamir told reporters that in his talk with the President he presented “the most essential and most vital problems” for Israel and its relations with the U.S. and predicted that “the results will be very fruitful.”
In addition to Shamir and Haig, the meeting with Reagan was attended by White House Chief of Staff James Baker; Richard Allen, the President’s National Security Advisor; the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Samuel Lewis; the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ephraim Evron; and Chanan Bar-On, deputy director general for North America in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
U.S. AWARE OF ISRAEL’S NEEDS
When Shamir was asked for specific information on U.S. foreign aid for Israel in the coming fiscal year and U.S.-Israeli co-production of manufactures, he replied, “We didn’t discuss details of cooperation of the defense establishments of the U.S. and Israel.” Shamir observed, however, that “in principle, this cooperation will be very efficient.” He said “The U.S. is aware of our needs.”
Asked about the Reagan Administration’s position in favor of strengthening Saudi Arabia’s military capability by providing extra equipment for the 60 F-15 warplanes it has purchased from the U.S., the Israeli Foreign Minister replied, “We oppose the arms race in the Middle East” and “we regard the supply to Saudi Arabia as part of the arms race going on.” But, he added that this supply comes from “many sources and many countries. If we cannot stop it we are eager to maintain the qualitative balance of power.” (See Related Story P.3)
Asked whether Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat would be coming to Washington before Israel’s elections on June 30, Shamir said, “I can’t say anything about that.” He said “the next contribution” by the U.S. to the peace process will be Haig’s visit to the Middle East.
Haig was questioned about the possibility of Jordan joining the peace talks. He replied, “This involves a consultative process with the parties concerned and is not a made-in-America solution. This is a matter for the parties.” He said of the Egyptian-Israeli autonomy talks that “We’re going to continue in the framework of Camp David and according to Resolutions 242 and 338 to reach a comprehensive settlement and only after careful consultations with the parties.”
Haig added, “We know where the obstacles lay with respect to the ongoing autonomy talks with a view to having the talks proceed and succeed. This will be dealt with promptly and early on and I anticipate the process won’t be long in resumption.” Haig denied that the U.S. emphasis on the Middle East talks had been diminished. He referred to “the strategic realities of the Middle East.”
“These,” he said, “reinforce the peace process and must always be kept in mind. We must not be exclusively concerned, for example, with oil diplomacy or with Arab-Israeli differences in isolation. They must be viewed against a background of increasing Soviet interventionism in the area and the commonality of concern with respect to all the nations in the region to deal with this danger. These are not mutually exclusive conceptions; they are mutually reinforcing conceptions.”
Haig said the conversations with Shamir were “rather detailed on mutual and international concerns.” He said his talks with Shamir were “invaluable” to the Reagan Administration to “enable us to assess at first hand” matters of “primary concern to the government of Israel.”