Peres Opposed to International Conference on Middle East Peace

Premier Shimon Peres spoke out strongly today against an international conference as the framework for Middle East peace negotiations and expressed disbelief in reports from Washington that the Reagan Administration may be edging away from its opposition to such an approach.

Peres said that when he met with Secretary of State George Shultz here earlier this month, Shultz agreed that an international conference would not serve the cause of peace.

The reports from Washington were related to yesterday’s meeting between President Reagan and King Hussein of Jordan. In prepared remarks to the press afterwards, Hussein said that Jordan and the Palestinians are ready to negotiate “within the context of an international conference.” Reagan, answering reporters’ questions, said that while the U.S. has differences with Jordan over a conference, the issue is being discussed with the Jordanians.

A senior Administration official who briefed reporters later, said the U.S. believes an international conference would be “political theater,” a stage for “rhetoric.” He added, however, that “nothing is static.”

The position of Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization, stated in the February II agreement between Hussein and PLO chief Yasir Arafat to negotiate jointly, is for peace talks to be held in the context of an international conference in which the participants would be the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and all parties to the Middle East conflict.

WARNS AGAINST A SOVIET ROLE

Israel and the U.S. have consistently opposed that approach and favor instead direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab adversaries along the lines of the 1978 Camp David negotiations between Israel and Egypt.

Peres, speaking during a visit to Acre, warned that an international conference would bring the Soviet Union into the Middle East peace process. He noted that Moscow supports the most extreme Arab positions and Israel would thus be faced at the negotiating table with an extremist rejectionist front.

Peres said an international conference would in fact be an attempt to circumvent substantive negotiations between the parties directly concerned. He said that even President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had expressed reservations over such a conference in a recent message to him.

NEXT STORY