State Dept. Official Assesses Mideast Outlook in Wake of Awacs Sale Vote

A State Department Middle East expert said today that while he does not expect yesterday’s Senate approval of the sale of AWACS and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia to result in the Saudis joining the Camp David peace process “directly,” the Saudis have been demonstrating evidence of support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his intention to continue the Camp David process.

Peter Constable, deputy assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, responding to questions at a day long National Foreign Policy Conference, based his view on an editorial in the official Saudi newspaper, Al-Madina.

“We do not and must not expect President Mubarak to abrogate the Camp David agreements at this time for a number of reasons that are understood by those acquainted with international events,” Constable quoted the Saudis as saying. He called this a “significant and supportive statement” in view of the Saudi opposition to Egypt over the past two years because of the Camp David agreements.

Constable also indicated that he did not expect President Reagan to convince King Hussein of Jordan to join the peace process when the two meet at the White House next Monday and Tuesday. He said the meeting will enable the two leaders to get acquainted and to listen to each others views but it would take more than this initial meeting to change Hussein’s refusal to join the negotiations for Palestinian autonomy.

Constable stressed that the U.S. is committed to the Camp David peace process which he said is also inclined with the Reagan Administration’s strategy to secure the Mideast and the Persian Gulf against threats from the Soviet Union and Libya. He said rejection of the $8.5 billion Saudi arms sale would have hampered this strategy but approval allows the Administration to continue the course set out in the Mideast nine months ago.

FAHD 8 POINTS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR CAMP DAVID

Constable said the U.S. “welcomes” the “constructive elements” in Saudi Prince Fahd’s eight-point peace program for a Mideast peace. But he said Fahd’s proposals did not provide a “vehicle” for negotiations and some of the eight points “preempt” outcomes that must be subject to negotiations. While Constable did not list these points, Fahd’s proposals call for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Constable added that while welcoming constructive parts of the Fahd proposals, it cannot be a substitute for the Camp David peace process.

Under questioning, Constable repeated the U.S. position on the Palestine Liberation Organization — that it will not negotiate with the PLO until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts United Nations Security Council resolution 242. He stressed that the Camp David process was designed to enable the Palestinians to join the talks and he hoped that the autonomy agreement now being worked out by Israel, Egypt and the U.S. will convince Palestinians to join the negotiations.

Constable earlier stressed that the U.S. was committed to maintaining its long standing relationship to Israel and to see that Israel maintained “technical and material advantages” in the region. But, he refused to be specific on whether new arms would be sent to Israel. Following the AWACS approval, Israel is expected to ask for additional arms.

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