WASHINGTON (Mar. 11)
The Reagan Administration is maintaining its cautious, noncommittal stance toward Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s recent peace initiative, as the Egyptian President begins an official visit to Washington today.
At the same time, Administration officials appear to be playing down a sense of pessimism which has been attributed to them in the press over the expected impact of the visit and the Middle East peace process.
A senior State Department official stressed in a briefing today that the U.S. would be mostly in “listening mode” as it seeks clarification of recent proposals made by the Egyptian President through the news media.
In an interview with The New York Times last month, Mubarak called for the formation of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation that would not necessarily include Palestine Liberation Organization members and that would negotiate directly with Israel. His proposal followed the conclusion of a PLO-Jordanian agreement on a joint negotiating position toward a Middle East settlement.
STATEMENTS RAISE QUESTIONS
But subsequent statements from both Mubarak and the PLO have raised a cloud of ambiguity over the initiatives. Mubarak, in a later interview, called for talks between the U.S. and a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation as an initial step– a suggestion endorsed by king Hussein.
Egyptian officials have also recently suggested that no delegation could be formed without PLO representation. Meanwhile, the PLO has requested that its agreement with Hussein be modified to call for PLO representation in a general Arab delegation to negotiations under U.S. auspices.
A senior Administration official in another briefing this morning said the U.S. conditions for talking with the PLO remained, but indicated that in any event the Administration would prefer not to involve itself in talks with a joint delegation even if the PLO were not represented.
“We’re not interested in anything that smacks of pre-negotiations of the American position,” the official said. The Administration has made its recognition of the PLO contingent on the latter’s acceptance of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and its recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
The official however, did not entirely rule out the possibility of talks between U.S. officials and a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation. He said the Administration would sound out the Egyptian President on his conception of how such talks could advance the object of direct Israeli-Arab negotiations. But he stressed that the United States could not accept PLO representation in any form.
Both officials indicated in the briefing that Mubarak would probably not receive the $870 million he is requesting as a supplementary aid package for 1985. They stressed that any decision would be un-related to Israel’s request for $800 million in 1985 supplementary aid now being considered by the Administration although recommendations to Congress for emergency assistance to both countries would probably be submitted in a form of a joint supplemental request.
Mubarak will meet with Secretary of State George Shultz today and with President Reagan tomorrow. He is also scheduled to meet this afternoon with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. This morning he met with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
DEMONSTRATORS AT EMBASSY
Meanwhile, about 30 demonstrators from five organizations demonstrated in front of the Egyptian Embassy this morning, calling on Egypt to “fulfill the terms of the (Israel-Egypt peace) treaty. “They claimed Egypt was violating the treaty by failing to return its Ambassador to Israel, stalling normalization of cultural and commercial relations and permitting anti-Semitism in the press. One of the organizers said this afternoon that three of the demonstrators had been invited in for talks with Embassy officials and were still inside the Embassy.
The organizations participating in the demonstration were: the Zionist Organization of America; Americans for a Safe Israel; the Silver Spring Jewish Center; Herut Revisionist Zionists of America; and the American Forum for Jewish-Christian Cooperation.