WASHINGTON (Oct. 23)
The Reagan Administration indicated today that the next step in the Middle East Peace process is to find an “international context” for direct negotiations.
State Department deputy spokesman Charles Redman said that as a result of the Administration’s meetings over the past month with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan, and Israeli Premier Shimon Peres, the peace process is moving forward in “a very deliberate way.”
“The focus of our attention in our discussions with the Jordanians, the Israelis and the Egyptians has remained direct negotiations,” Redman stressed. “In this regard, all concerned have accepted the need for a supportive international context for such negotiations.”
Redman noted that “a number of ideas have been put forward. None has proven wholly satisfactory to all parties. So long as the matter remains under discussion, we do not believe public examination of the details of these proposals would be useful.”
JORDAN, ISRAEL HOLD TO THEIR POSITIONS
However, publicly at least, neither Jordan nor Israel has shifted from their positions. Hussein still wants an international conference which would include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Peres, who, in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Monday, called for direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan to begin before the end of the year, has ruled out the participation of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China as long as they do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Instead he urged the Security Council to give its support to direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan.
Redman said today that the U.S. is still willing to meet with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, but such a meeting must be seen as leading to direct negotiations.
U.S. PRAISES PERES SPEECH
The U.S. has praised Peres’ speech to the General Assembly. “It was a statesman-like, thoughtful and forward-looking exposition which underscored Prime Minister Peres’ commitment to the peace process, and presented Israeli suggestions for getting the parties to direct negotiations, a goal shared by Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the United States,” State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said yesterday.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s reaffirmation of the urgency of moving forward in the peace process, an urgency repeated in recent days by King Hussein, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt,and President Reagan.”
Meanwhile, Redman denied today that Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead had compared Israel’s raid against the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia October I to a terrorist act.
Whitehead, upon leaving Tunisia yesterday, where he had gone to heal relations with the Arab country, said of the Israeli raid, “We deplore it, as we deplore all acts of terrorism.” Redman insisted that Whitehead did “not describe the Israeli raid as a terrorist attack, he did not intend to imply it was such an attack.”
Redman said Whitehead’s statement was “consistent with previous Administration statements on the subject.” He said it was made in the context “of the cycle of violence in the Middle East which we have deplored. The cycle must be broken.”
Immediately after the raid, Reagan and Administration spokesmen deplored the cycle of violence in the Middle East but also said the Israeli action was a “legitimate” act of self-defense against terrorism. The next day, while saying that the attack was “understandable” in view of recent terrorist attacks against Israelis, the Administration added that the raid could not be condoned.