The USSR and Mideast Peace

The Reagan Administration asserted again Thursday that if the Soviet Union wants to be part of the Middle East peace process it should begin by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said that there is “a long list” of things the Soviet Union can do to “demonstrate a willingness to play a constructive role in the search for a Middle East peace” beginning with “the establishment of relations with the State of Israel.” Kalb would not elaborate on the list, but in the past other items have included increased Jewish emigration and an end to harassment of Soviet Jews.

Kalb’s remarks came after he rejected a Soviet proposal for a conference on the Middle East comprising the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — The U.S., Soviet Union, France, United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China.

French President Francois Mitterrand said Wednesday at a press conference in Moscow after his talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that Gorbachev had suggested the conference. Mitterrand indicated his support.

But Kalb noted that the “U.S. experience in the past” with meetings preparing for international conferences and the conferences themselves have been that they are used for “posturing and rhetorical excess instead of real hard negotiations.”

This was the position taken by the U.S. when King Hussein proposed an international conference that would have included the five Security Council permanent members as a means of negotiating peace with Israel.

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