WASHINGTON (Sep. 3)
The State Department denied today that Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy had broken a U.S. promise to King Hussein of Jordan when he did not meet with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation during his trip to the Middle East last month. The charge was made yesterday by Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat who claimed that the promise was made to the King by President Reagan.
State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said the U.S. made clear even before Murphy went to the Middle East that the U.S. position is that “we were prepared to meet with such a delegation if mutually acceptable arrangements could be worked out and if those talks would lead to direct negotiations” between the Arabs and Israel.
Redman said that since the return of Murphy, who heads the Near Eastern and South Asian bureau, the Department has been studying the “next steps” to take in the Middle East peace process. He stressed that this could include a meeting with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.
The State Department has still not announced whether anyone on the list of Palestinians drawn up by Arafat and submitted to the U.S. by Hussein, is acceptable as a Palestinian representative on the joint delegation. The U.S. has said that PLO members cannot be on the delegation.
However, after Murphy’s return from his visit to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, the State Department indicated that his failure to meet with the joint delegation had more to do with Hussein’s continued insistence on an international conference for peace talks than it did with the make up of the delegation.