Washington (Jun. 2)
Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, declared today that the United States expects to resume the “stalled” autonomy negotiations with Israel and Egypt this fall.
“It is clear that despite calls from some for alternative approaches to the Palestine issue,” including the initiative expected to be proposed by the European Economic Community (ECC), “the Camp David accords will still be the only operating game in town later this year,” Veliotes said.
He also said that the United States, “together with our partners, fully intend” to pursue these negotiations.
Veliotes, answering questions at the State Department’s annual foreign policy conference for U.S. editors and broadcasters, said the June 30 Israeli elections would not have any effect on the negotiations. He said that when Secretary of State Alexander Haig visited Israel two months ago, both members of the Israel Government and the opposition expressed their “determination to engage again” in the autonomy talks.
“We are committed to addressing the Palestinian issue with the Israelis and the Egyptians within the coming months with the aim toward making significant progress under the Camp David accords,” Veliotes said.
Stressing that the U.S. was not sitting still on the issue, Veliotes said that the Saudi Arabians and other Arab countries believe that there can be “no real stability in the Middle East and security unless there is a solution to the Palestinian issue.” He said that security and Mideast peace are linked and that progress in one field encourages progress in the other.
Veliotes said that the Reagan Administration’s main objective in the area was “meeting and helping our friends to meet pressures inspired by the Soviet expansionist design.” He said that this is the reason the U.S. proposes to sell AWACs reconnaissance planes and enhancement equipment for F-15s to the Saudis. He said the sale is “intimately linked to our plans and hopes for the enhanced security of our interests in the (Persian) Gulf.”
Conceding the Israelis have a concern about the proposed sale, Veliotes said he did not believe that it presented a danger to Israel.
VIEW OF PLO UNCHANGED
On other issues Veliotes said the U.S. is currently taking the lead in negotiating with Egypt and Israel to help fulfill the American pledge to provide a multinational force to patrol the Sinai before Israel’s final withdrawal from the peninsula before next April. He said the U.S. pledge is necessary because such a multinational force cannot be created through the United Nations.
The State Department official said the U.S. still considers the question of East Jerusalem as one that has to be determined through negotiations. He reiterated a long-held State Department position that the Palestine Liberation Organization is an umbrella group that has “terrorist elements.” When questioned about this later, Department spokesman Dean Fischer said he saw no contradictions in the Veliotes’ statement with President Reagan’s public remarks that he considered the PLO a terrorist group without any qualifications.