WASHINGTON (Dec. 19)
The U.S. wants Jordan to join in the Middle East peace process but “it would be a mistake to characterize as a ‘make or break’ meeting” President Reagan’s upcoming talks with King Hussein this Tuesday, a senior Administration official said.
“We are talking about a very important meeting that we hope will bring us to a new plateau of cooperation and bring that date of broadened negotiations much closer,” the official said at a White House briefing for reporters Friday. “But we are going to have to continue conversations with the government of Israel and other governments and Jordan as we move ahead down the months,” he added.
Hussein arrived in Washington yesterday for what will be his second meeting with Reagan. They first met here in November, 1981. The official said Hussein “will be sharing his views with the President on where we stand in the peace process and together they will assess the present and discuss the future. While there are no deadlines, we strongly believe that an early move toward broadened negotiations offers the best hope for progress because the momentum must not be lost.”
NOTES KEY DEVELOPMENT
The official noted Hussein’s public support for Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative which the President announced last September 1. He referred to Hussein’s December 13 statement on BBC radio that Jordan recognized Israel and called on the Palestine Liberation Organization to do so as well.
“Clearly, this is a key development and central element in the peace process,” the Administration official said. “Clearly Jordan has taken the lead with respect to the other Arabs, most importantly with the Palestinians, in an effort to move toward broadened negotiations. Jordan is now involved in a major effort with the PLO and others to develop a formula whereby the Palestinians would participate with Jordan in broadened negotiations with Israel.”
The official stressed, however, that a failure by Hussein to commit himself to joining the peace process at Tuesday’s meeting would not mean the end of Reagan’s initiative. The Administration has been stressing that the President is firmly committed to his plan and intends to pursue it. The Reagan plan calls for a self-governing Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in association with Jordan.
ISSUE OF ARMS SALE TO JORDAN
Another aspect of the Reagan-Hussein meeting is expected to involve U.S. arms sales to Jordan, strongly opposed by Israel and its friends in the U.S. The Administration official noted, “We have a long-standing and mutually beneficial security relationship with Jordan which we intend to continue.”
He said that “we have been holding discussions with the Jordanian: in the context of the joint military commission. This a long-standing bilateral body that meets twice a year. Here, the focus was on modernizing Jordan’s armed forces to meet its legitimate defense needs. For some months, we have been discussing with the Jordanians the type of aircraft that would best meet their defense needs. If and when we receive requests for the sale of new weapons systems, these requests will be given serious consideration by the Executive branch.” The official added that “consultations with the Congress are an integral part of any such consideration” and that the sales of arms are studied “an their own merits,” indicating they would not be contingent on Jordan joining the peace process.
The official warned that a Congressional move to block new U.S. arms sales to Jordan appeared intended to embarrass Hussein on the eve of his meeting with the President. “I can’t see how anyone could believe that this serves the interests of the United States,” he said.
ARENS WARNS AGAINST COAXING HUSSEIN
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Moshe Arens, said Hussein must announce his willingness to negotiate with Israel directly and without conditions. According to the envoy, such an announcement is not likely.
Arens warned that the U.S. must not “attempt to coax Hussein to the (negotiating) table” by guaranteeing him concessions from Israel. “He should be told that he must do what (the late Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat did — come to Jerusalem or invite Menachem Begin to Amman,” Arens said in reply to questions at an International Club luncheon here last Thursday.