LONDON (Jan. 22)
Israeli Premier Shimon Peres met British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for an hour this morning and said they discussed new ideas to break the Middle East peace stalemate.
Peres said after the meeting: “I think some new ideas were raised which are worth examining.” He added: “Time is running out and there is a need to take additional steps.”
The talks with Thatcher and Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary, came on the first day of Peres’ five-day visit. The only previous official visit here by an Israeli Premier took place in 1977 when the newly-elected Menachem Begin met then-British Premier James Callaghan.
Peres arrived from Holland under close security last night amid heightened diplomatic activity over the Middle East. Shortly before his arrival, King Hussein of Jordan left Britain after one of his frequent private visits. His departure ended speculation that he and Peres might hold a secret meeting here.
Both men, however, were in contact through the good offices of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, who will meet Peres tonight for the second time in four days. On Sunday, he met with Peres in Holland following a meeting with Hussein in London Saturday.
Thatcher, a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and a personal friend of King Hussein, is also in a position to play a mediating role, having met the Jordanian King during his latest visit.
SOME OF THE NEW IDEAS
Some of the new ideas discussed at her meeting with Peres this morning were expected to be spelled out publicly later today when the Israeli Prime Minister delivers a key political lecture at the Royal Institution of International Affairs.
It is expected to be along the lines of an article Peres wrote in The Times of London suggesting ways to exploit “the signs of a promising opening in Jordan.” Step one, Peres wrote, would be for all sides to renounce the use of violence.
“All states concerned could then convene around a negotiating table in any location mutually agreed upon. In this spirit, I reaffirm my willingness to go to Amman for the first round of talks,” Peres said. The negotiations should be direct and free of external pressures and preconditions, he stressed.
On the thorny issue of Palestinian representation, Peres did not explicitly veto official representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Instead he said: “We have recognized the right of non-PLO Palestinians to participate in the negotiations. These mutually agreed representatives would be an integral part of the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.”
He also sounded somewhat flexible on the framework of the negotiations, saying Israel welcomed the support of all states in efforts to reach a peace treaty. He called on all permanent members of the UN Security Council to help promote direct negotiations even through an international forum if need be. But he made clear that this depended on the Soviet Union’s agreement to restore diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.
ATTEMPTING TO SEIZE THE DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVE
In his visit, part of a West European tour taking in The Netherlands and West Germany, Peres is attempting to seize the diplomatic initiative after several years in which Israel appeared to be on the defensive in the international arena.
His warning this morning, that “time is running out” to avoid renewed conflict in the Middle East, is a theme heard far more often over the years from King Hussein than from Israeli leaders.
Some British diplomats interpret it as a partial reference to Israel’s domestic political setup. They say Peres might be hinting that the peace process could become more difficult when he hands over leadership of the unity coalition Cabinet next October to Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the rightwing Likud.