WASHINGTON (Dec. 5)
The Reagan Administration today urged Syria, as well as Jordan, to agree to direct negotiations with Israel.
State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb stressed that it has always been United States policy that United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 called for negotiations on the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank and Gaza.
Kalb read a long prepared statement on the subject in the wake of reports that Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, told Israeli Premier Shimon Peres that King Hussein of Jordan was seeking a rapprochement with Syria in order to involve Damascus in the peace process.
Syrian President Hafez Assad has been opposed to Hussein’s peace initiative. Most Mideast observers believe Hussein turned to Assad after he realized that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat could not be relied upon to support Jordan’s efforts at getting negotiations with Israel started.
Kalb’s statement, in full, said:
“Our current efforts are directed toward initiation of direct negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. If those efforts are to be successful they will involve difficult decisions and political risk by all parties. That is why we have consistently cautioned against looking for any sudden breakthroughs.
“Our ultimate objective is a just, comprehensive settlement between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors. We believe that UN Security Council Resolution 242 applies to all fronts involved in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights, and that Syria has a place in the peace process if it wishes to participate.
“We continue to hope that all parties in the dispute, including Syria, will recognize the opportunity inherent in the current peace process and elect to participate constructively.
“The focus of our attention in all of the discussions has remained direct negotiations. In this regard, the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Egyptians have accepted the need for a supportive international context for such negotiations. A number of ideas have been put forward. The matter remains under consideration.”
OBSTACLE TO PROGRESS
However, finding an international context still remains an obstacle to progress since Jordan wants an international conference which would include the Soviet Union. But the U.S. and Israel are opposed to Soviet participation as long as Moscow does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The other major obstacle is Hussein’s insistance that the PLO must be represented on the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation which both Israel and the U.S. reject.
There is speculation that an effort to solve this problem was the reason for the meeting Murphy had yesterday with nine Palestinians at the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem. Kalb said today that the State Department has decided not to release the names of the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Kalb was reminded that during President Reagan’s meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders earlier this fall, the President said he was confident that negotiations would begin by the end of the year, but it was now December. “The peace efforts are underway, remain underway” Kalb replied. “I am not in a position, obviously, to circle a date on the calendar.”