WASHINGTON (May. 30)
The Reagan Administration said today that its major objective in the Middle East was to find a “mechanism” to bring about direct talks between the Arabs and Israel.
“The bedrock of the American position is to obtain a mechanism which will lead to progress in the peace process and certainly lead to direct talks between the Arabs and the Israelis,” State Department deputy spokesman Edward Djerejian said.
He was trying to clarify the United States’ position after President Reagan indicated yesterday, following his two hour meeting with King Hussein of Jordan, that the United States was moving away from its opposition to an international conference to negotiate a peace settlement. Hussein had stressed to reporters that he needed the “umbrella” of an international conference in order to conduct negotiations with Israel.
The situation became further ambiguous when Secretary of State George Shultz, at a dinner for Hussein last night, in praising the King for his efforts to advance the peace process, talked of negotiations within an “international context.” Djerejian pointed out that Reagan said yesterday that the U.S. has “differences” with Hussein over such an international conference and that those differences would be discussed with the King before he leaves Washington tomorrow. Djerejian stressed that the U.S. is keeping in close touch with all the parties concerned on these developments.
SOVIET ROLE IN MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS
The spokesman conceded today that one major difference over an international conference is U.S. opposition to the participation of the Soviet Union. Hussein made it clear yesterday that the Soviet Union would be a participant since his February 11 agreement with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat calls for an international conference which would include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
“We have said on many occasions that if the Soviet Union demonstrates a willingness to play a constructive role in the Middle East peace process, we would welcome that development,” Djerejian said. “However, so far we are seeing no evidence that the Soviets are prepared to play such a role.”
Djerejian spelled out some steps the U.S. believes the Soviets should take if it wants to demonstrate that it can be constructive. He said these include: Resumption of full diplomatic relations with Israel; the end of Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda; improving the treatment of Soviet Jews, including the right to emigrate; the exercise of Soviet influence to reduce arms supplies to Iran by Soviet friends and allies; ending Soviet arms supplies to militia groups in Lebanon and desisting from efforts to obstruct positive moves expanding the peace process in the region.
On the role of the PLO, Djerejian noted that Hussein said that his willingness to negotiate with Israel as part of a joint Jordanian-PLO delegation comes not only from the February 11 agreement but from the King’s recent talks with the PLO, which includes the organization’s acceptance of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
But the Department spokesman added that the U.S. still required the “PLO clearly and unequivocally to accept U.S. conditions which are the acceptance of the two resolutions and Israel’s right to exist.” He said this acceptance must be “explicit and public” and if it comes “we will begin a substantial dialogue with that organization.”
At the same time, he said U.S. acceptance of the PLO, does not mean the PLO can be accepted as the Palestinian representative in a joint delegation with Jordan for negotiations with Israel since all the concerned parties must agree to the negotiating partners.
In listing the conditions for the U.S. to talk to the PLO, Djerejian did not mention a renunciation of terrorism which was listed this week by a senior Administration official who briefed reporters on the Reagan-Hussein meeting. Djerejian said the U.S. position on terrorism is well known and the U.S. has taken the lead in combating international terrorism. He added that there could not be a peace process going on if terrorism existed. Djerejian also noted that Hussein said yesterday that negotiations should be conducted with Israel in a “non-belligerent manner” which the Jordanian Embassy later corrected to a “non-belligerent environment” which Djerejian implied would rule out a continuation of terrorism.