WASHINGTON (Nov. 28)
President Reagan has expressed optimism that moderate Arab states are moving toward negotiations with Israel and said the United States will “do everything we can to hopefully encourage this” trend.
“I think that there has been some trust built up by moderate Arab states in the United States as an intermediary,” Reagan said in an interview with The Washington Times released by the White House today.
But the President stressed that the U.S. is “not trying to negotiate the peace” between Israel and the Arab states. “They have to negotiate the peace, he said.
Reagan said that “Syria … still is the stumbling block. But even so, now there is the negotiation going on with regard to removal of Israel’s troops from Lebanon.” This was an apparent reference to Syria not interferring with the Israel-Lebanese negotiations and thus by implication approving of the talks.
REAGAN CITES REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
In addition to this Syrian inaction, the President gave as reasons for believing there is a move toward negotiations Jordan’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Egypt, which he said “kind of strengthens Egypt’s position as being accepted back in the Arab community even though it has the peace treaty with Israel”; the resumption of U.S.-Iraqi diplomatic relation this week which were broken by Iraq in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War; and the holding of the Palestine National Council meeting in Amman rather than Damascus.
“I think these things are all leading toward the possibility of getting the Arab states to agree to negotiate,” Reagan said. “You see, they’ve been sitting there with the position that they refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation. Well, you can’t negotiate with someone until that’s removed.”
Reagan added that Egypt has negotiated peace with Israel and that King Hussein of Jordan is now saying that “Jordan can’t be alone” but needs the other Arab states “to come together on this and enter into negotiations.”
The President added that the PLO is now “taking on the radical factions in their own midst that was pro-Syrian.” But he did not mention that PLO officials in Amman so for have rejected Hussein’s pleas that they move toward negotiations with Israel.