WASHINGTON (Feb. 10)
President Reagan is expected to make clear to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia tomorrow that if the Saudis and other moderate Arab states want increased U.S. involvement in the Mideast peace process, then they must support Jordan’s efforts to become the negotiator for the Arabs in talks with Israel.
“We will be able to assure the Saudis that we will be active and play the kind of role they would like to see us play, but only in the context of a commitment from the Arab side to direct negotiations with Israel,” a senior Administration official said here.
The official briefed reporters on Fahd’s weeklong visit, which includes meetings with Reagan at the White House and Secretary of State George Shultz at the State Department tomorrow. Fahd, who is scheduled to arrive here tonight, is slated to meet with other Administration officials, American businessmen and private citizens, as well as Arab diplomats here before leaving Friday.
This is the first official visit to Washington by a reigning Saudi monarch since King Faisal came here in 1971. Fahd had been to the U.S. several times and his last official visit was in 1977 when he was crowned Prince. He met Reagan briefly at Cancun, Mexico.
Fahd is known to want to become better acquainted with Reagan personally and “as King wants to sit down and deal directly across the table with his American counterpart,” the Administration official said.
RATIONALE FOR FAHD’S VIEWS
He said the Administration is eager to hear Fahd’s views because the King in the last few weeks sent emissaries to various Arab countries and it is believed here that he reflects the opinions widely held among moderate Arab leaders.
The official said Fahd believes that “this is the moment to urge the U.S. to reinvigorate the peace process” because of Reagan’s overwhelming election victory and that this is the start of the second term in which the President does not have to worry about reelection. This is coupled with the belief that the new Israeli government of Premier Shimon Peres is showing “evidence of greater flexibility” than the previous Likud governments.
Whether or not the present time is an “historic moment” as the Saudis believe, “depends on their own sense of commitment” rather than any U.S. action, the official stressed. He emphasized that what has been missing from the peace process is an Arab country willing to negotiate with Israel.
ROLE FOR HUSSEIN
King Hussein of Jordan is willing to take on that role, but “quite clearly he doesn’t believe that he can be effective and legitimate in that role unless he has the mandate from the Arab side which includes the Palestinians,” the official said.
The official rejected the urging by Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid here Thursday that the U.S. open a dialogue with the PLO, a position expected to be echoed by Fahd. Instead, the official said, what is needed is Saudi support for the talks between Hussein and PLO Chief Yasir Arafat. He said this might require from the Saudis backing Hussein while putting pressure on the PLO.
If Hussein does agree to negotiate with Israel, then it will confront Israel with “very significant choices,” the official said. While refusing to predict Israel’s reaction, the official added “it seems to me unlikely and I hope unthinkable that such an opportunity will be allowed to escape.”
REAGAN COMMITTED TO HIS 1982 INITIATIVE
Meanwhile, Reagan will stress to Fahd that he remains committed to his September 1, 1982 Mideast peace initiative, the official said. He said the initiative is the U.S. position and Israel and the Arabs would be expected to present their own positions for negotiations. “We are not trying to negotiate with the two parties,” the official said. “The two parties have to negotiate with each other.”
The official said that possible arms sales to the Saudis will be discussed during Fahd’s visit but no specific package will be proposed, until sometime in the “reasonably near future.” He said this is because it will take four to six weeks for the Administration to complete its study of how U.S. regional security measures help the two goals of regional stability and the movement toward peace.
Until then, no new arms sale to the Mideast will be announced. Noting that any proposed sale to Saudi Arabia will be “controversial” in Congress, the official said the study will help obtain approval by showing how the proposed sale is “integrated” in U.S. strategic concerns.