WASHINGTON (Dec. 21)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has expressed concern to President Reagan about the “stalemate” in the Middle East peace process and urged that ways be found to “energize” it, a senior Administration official said today.
Mubarak’s comments were made in a letter to Reagan delivered by Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Kamal Hassan Ali, during a 15-minute meeting with the President and Vice President George Bush at the White House this morning, the official said.
Ali stressed Egypt’s continued commitment to the Camp David peace process and to Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative, according to the official. Ali also maintained that in order to be effective, the peace process needs Jordanian participation.
SOUGHT TO CONVINCE THE PLO OF JORDAN’S ROLE
At his meetings with Reagan today and with Secretary of State George Shultz yesterday, Ali stressed that Egypt has sought to convince the Palestine Liberation Organization to give Jordan the authority it feels necessary to enter the negotiations.
The Administration official said that the Egyptians believe that a new opportunity exists with the evacuation of Yasir Arafat and his forces from Tripoli in northern Lebanon yesterday. Ali himself said that this could increase chances that Hussein and the Palestinians would accept the Reagan plan.
The Egyptians argued that Arafat continues “to be the most popular leader” among the Palestinians. The Administration official said that while the U.S. hopes the Egyptians are right, it does not know what role the PLO can or will now play.
ATTITUDE TOWARD NEW U.S.-ISRAELI ACCORD
Ali told the Americans that while Egypt is not concerned about the new strategic cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S., announced during Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s visit to Washington last month, some Arab leaders believe the U.S. has fundamentally changed its policy. He said Egypt has tried to allay their fears.
Reagan told Ali that the U.S. wants the same relationship with its Arab friends that it has with Israel, according to the Administration official. Ali replied that he was reassured by the President’s remarks today as well as by his comments on the same subject at his press conference last night.
Ali said, after his talk with Shultz yesterday, that “We (Egypt) know that the United States and Israel have this relation and all our concern was (over) the impact of this coordination on the peace process. But as we have listened to the explanation, we are satisfied,” he added.
BASIS FOR PROGRESS IN LEBANON
Ali told the Americans that progress could be made in Lebanon if there was a phased Israeli withdrawal coordinated with a Lebanese build-up behind it. The official noted that Ali was expressing the view of other Arab states that if this is done, the Arab states could put pressure on Syria to withdraw.
“We’re not persuaded that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal even if that was in the cards, is going to motivate Syria to get out,” the official said. “We have not seen the evidence of any Arab pressure on Syria on other occasions.”
The official said that Egyptian-Israeli relations were discussed, although the question of when Egypt will return its ambassador to Israel was not brought up by either side.
But Ali reiterated the determination of the Mubarak government to work for improved relations with Israel, according to the U.S. official who noted that there were specific areas of cooperation, such as the sale of Egyptian oil to Israel, Israeli tourism to Egypt and the visits of senior Israelis to Cairo. The official noted that both Israel and Egypt place “enormous value” on their peace treaty.
Ali said yesterday that the Palestinian issue remained the crux of the Middle East problem and said Egypt wanted the U.S. to continue its role as mediator. He said his talk with Shultz included a discussion of U.S. aid to Egypt and “hopefully all our goals in this respect will be fulfilled.”
Egypt, the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel, will reportedly receive $1.1 billion in military grants and $1 billion in economic aid in fiscal 1985, if Congress goes along with the Administration’s request. The State Department has declined to comment on this report.