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Peres: Quiet Diplomatic Contacts with Jordan is a Possibility

Premier Shimon Peres said Sunday that a path toward developing quiet diplomatic contacts with Jordan has developed, though he warned that the breakthrough is characterized by mutual understanding more than agreement.

Peres declined to amplify on his remarks, but his optimism was immediately dampened by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Ministry officials who insisted that recent contacts between Israel and Jordan had so far failed to yield any tangible breakthrough.

Shamir told reporters, “I don’t think we’re very near a peace treaty or any similar development.” He said that Israel’s relations with Jordan over the past seven or eight years had not involved any special security problems, adding: “I think we have to be satisfied with this state of relations.”

Peres, in an Israel Television interview, apparently attributed part of the progress, however limited, to the differences between King Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.

The Israeli leader praised Hussein for breaking off talks with the PLO aimed at forming a common position on Middle East peace talks. He welcomed the Jordanian King’s belief that Arafat was an impossible partner for peace.

“What we see is an open, unequivocal rift between King Hussein and Arafat,” said Peres. “This is the first time that an important Arab leader has said, ‘Arafat is impossible, he is not a partner’.”

“Moreover,” Peres continued, “you will notice that this is not the end of the process. There is now a split between Arafat’s wing and Fatah forces that are in Jordan–in addition to the split that took place in Syria. Since I estimate that the PLO is the greatest obstacle to peace, this is like a boulder that is slightly shattered, slightly ground down.”

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