WASHINGTON (Aug. 5)
The Reagan Administration said today it sees the Arab summit conference, opening in Casablanca, Morocco Wednesday, as a “significant event” which it hopes will provide backing to efforts by King Hussein of Jordan to bring about negotiations with Israel.
“The participating heads of state are in a unique position to encourage the peace process, ” State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said. He added that “King Hussein is working hard to establish a process which will lead to a negotiated settlement. His efforts are worthy of support. We will look to the summit to reinforce King Hussein’s initiative.”
Kalb said the State Department has still not made any decision on whether any of the Palestinians on a list submitted by Hussein are acceptable as the Palestinian members of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation for talks between the United States and the joint delegation.
But he said the U.S. “is prepared to meet” with such a group “and would hope such a meeting would take place as soon as arrangements can be mutually agreed. We see the meeting as supporting King Hussein’s efforts to establish a process leading to a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian problem.”
NO. 2 STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL IN MIDEAST
Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead is currently in the Middle East in what the State Department said was not “a negotiating mission” but “an opportunity” for the Department’s new No. 2 man “to become broadly familiar with the region and personally acquainted with some of the Key leaders.”
His itinerary includes Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Morocco. He is not visiting Syria. Damascus has lambasted the Arab summit call by Moroccan King Hassan and said it will not attend the conference. Syria also opposes Hussein’s efforts.
While Kalb gave no indication of what Whitehead will be doing besides learning about the region, it is obvious from the statement today that he will be seeking to encourage the Arab countries to support Hussein. He will also be seeking to allay Israel’s concerns since Israel has maintained that there is no need for a separate U.S. meeting with the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation before direct negotiations are held with Israel.
‘ PROMISING’ MIDEAST DEVELOPMENT
Kalb indicated that the U.S. would like to see the Casablanca summit as adding to what he termed “promising development in recent months” in the peace process. He listed the February II agreement between Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, and ” statements made by King Hussein during this visit to Washington (in May) and his activities thereafter.”
However, while the U.S. has called for direct negotiations with Israel, Hussein has repeatedly stressed he wants an international conference which would include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. and Israel have opposed this and have particularly rejected including the Soviet Union in any Mideast negotiations. Apparently the U.S. hopes that the Arab summit could give Hussein the “international umbrella” he said in Washington he needs for talks with Israel.
U.S. REGRETS ISRAEL CABINET ACTION
Meanwhile, Kalb urged the Israel government not to implement the stricter security measures for the West Bank and Gaza the Cabinet approved yesterday. ” We deplore the recent acts of violence in Israel and the occupied territories which have led the Cabinet to announce that it may exercise these measures,” Kalb said. “Nevertheless, we regret the Cabinet’s decision, and hope that these measures will not be implemented. As we have said in the past, we consider such measures as likely to foster further tensions.”