WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made a final appeal for the revival of United States involvement in the Middle East peace process, as he wound up a visit to Washington today.
At a luncheon address to the National Press Club, the Egyptian President obliquely criticized the Administration’s hesitation to meet with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, as an initial step toward direct negotiations with Israel.
“Some have suggested that the United States should wait and see how things develop,” Mubarak said. “In effect the proponents of this view advocate inaction as a line of policy.”
PREISES PLO-JORDANIAN PACT
Calling such an attitude “almost a defeatest approach,” Mubarak again praised the agreement concluded last month between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan as providing “a golden opportunity” upon which the U.S. should act. “It’s essence is crystal clear,” the Egyptian President said, “a firm commitment to a peaceful solution; the rest of it is a matter of detail.”
The PLO-Jordanian agreement calls for a “peaceful and just settlement of the Middle East crisis” on the basis of “United Nations and Security Council Resolutions,” and recognition of the “right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.” It does not refer explicitly to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 or recognize Israel’s right to exist, which have been U.S. conditions for opening a dialogue with the PLO.
WANTS U.S. TO MEET PALESTINIANS
Beyond praising the agreement, Mubarak did not call explicitly for a dialogue between the U.S. and the PLO, but in response to questions following the address, he repeated an earlier suggestion that any joint delegation include PLO members whose direct involvement in the organization is not public knowledge.
“If I brought here 20 Palestinians who of you could tell me that this man is PLO and this man is non-PLO,” the President asked journalists at the luncheon. Responding to his own question, he said. “You will never recognize if he is PLO unless he has something on his body (indicating) that he is PLO. He is a human being.”
But Mubarak, like the Reagan Administration, was careful to avoid the appearance that nothing had been accomplished by his discussions in Washington and that he was returning to Egypt disappointed. “I came here not seeking decisions now,” he said. “I just came to exchange views.”
At the same time, the Egyptian President warned that failure to resolve the Palestinian problem soon would lead to a rise in terrorist activity that would not leave the U.S. untouched. “It is no exaggeration to say that the U.S. stands to suffer from that more than any nation outside the region, ” Mubarak said.
In his response to questions, Mubarak also defended his refusal to return the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, citing his conditions that Israel first withdraw from Lebanon and resolve the border dispute over Taba, the 800 square meter territory whose status was left unresolved when Israel withdrew from the Sinai in April, 1982. He maintained it was Israel that had made a “national issue” out of the dispute. “Let them send it to the arbitration to finish this stupid problem,” the Egyptian leader said. An agreement concluded on the eve of Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai stipulates that the dispite will be settled by arbitration if an attempt at negotiations and conciliation fail.
Mubarak has been on the defensive in Congress over the absence of Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel. In the past week Congressional leaders have produced a number of letters and a proposed House resolution calling on Egypt to improve its relations with Israel.
Mubarak insisted today that public opinion in Egypt had forced him to remove the Ambassador following the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in September, 1982, but that this was no more than a gesture of protest. “The Ambassador is not a relation. It’s a symbol,” Mubarak said.