WASHINGTON (Sep. 23)
The Reagan Administration is still hopeful that direct negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation can begin before the end of the year, a senior Administration official said today.
The official made the statement as he briefed reporters on the one-hour meeting at the White House between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Reagan at which he indicated there has been no change in the positions of the United States or the Arab countries. When it was suggested at the end of the briefing that the report just given was “bleak,” the official replied, smiling, “The situation is not bleak.”
During a picture-taking session in the Oval Office before the meeting, Reagan was asked whether he agreed with State Department officials who had been saying that this is the “year of opportunity” for making progress toward a peace settlement in the Middle East. “Everyday is an opportunity,” the President replied.
The official said that Mubarak wants to push the momentum forward on the peace process and he “thinks time is wasting” and “hopes initiatives can be taken.” Mubarak “is anxious that the process be given a push,” the official said. But while saying that Mubarak has many ideas, the official would not give any details of how the Egyptian President sees the process being pushed ahead.
However, the official noted that Mubarak believes the U.S. should talk to a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization has given “implicit” recognition of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 in the agreement signed with King Hussein February II. Mubarak said the PLO would make this recognition “explicit” during the “dialogue” between the U.S. and a joint delegation.
Reagan reiterated the U.S. position that the U.S. is ready to talk to the PLO once it accepts publicly the two UN Resolutions and Israel’s right to exist. “We have asked very plain, they must be equally plain,” the official said. He said Mubarak did not discuss his meeting with King Hussein last week, since Reagan will be hosting the Jordanian monarch next Monday.
The two Presidents also discussed Israel-Egyptian relations and the Administration official said the U.S. was “happy” that Egypt and Israel had agreed to hold another meeting on the Taba issue in Cairo Thursday which the U.S. will attend.
Mubarak met with Reagan after meetings with Treasury Secretary James Baker and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and a luncheon meeting with Vice President George Bush. He was scheduled to meet with members of the Senate and House late this afternoon before leaving for New York where he is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. Hussein is to address the Assembly on Friday.