JERUSALEM (Sep. 1)
Both the United States and Israel appear to be trying to persuade Jordan’s King Hussein to join an international framework for Mideast peace negotiations.
This seemed apparent Monday as Premier Shimon Peres announced that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy would shuttle between Israel, Egypt and Jordan this week in preparation for the summit meeting between Peres and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, tentatively scheduled for next week.
Mean while, Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman began discreet high-level talks in Europe as Peres’ envoy Monday, meeting in Bonn with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The summit will be held if Israeli and Egyptian negotiators agree before next week on a panel of three international arbitrators to join with the one Egyptian and one Israeli legal expert to adjudicate the Taba border dispute.
Taba is 25 acres of Sinai beach front which both Israel and Egypt claim under the two nations’ 1979 peace treaty.
Last week the two governments formally approved the compromis, or terms of reference, for the arbitration, which had been worked out during months of negotiations.
Provided the Taba talks have been wound up, Egypt is to send an Ambassador to Tel Aviv, before the summit, thereby restoring the diplomatic relationship to what it was before September 1982, when Cairo recalled its Ambassador in the wake of the Beirut refugee camps massacre.
THE TABA AGENDA
Peres told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that the summit agenda would deal with Taba, normalization of bilateral ties, and the broader peace process, in that order.
Deputy Premier and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir repeatedly has urged that the summit, if held, dwell on bilateral relations rather than on the broader (i.e., Palestinian) peace issues.
Peres made it clear, however, that he sought tangible progress on the broader peace process. He is hoping to establish a procedural framework for peace negotiations, or at the very least a joint declaration of goals and principles.
Peres and the Labor Alignment have enunciated publicly their readiness to accept “international accompaniment” for Mideast peace negotiations. This implies an international conference, though Peres has been at pains to insist that nuts-and-bolts negotiations would take place between Israel and each of the Arab parties separately and privately.
ROLE FOR THE SOVIET UNION
Shamir and the Likud never have been enthusiastic over this formula, but never have had to spurn it publicly. Peres has said that the Soviets, too, would be welcome to participate in such a framework, provided they first restore diplomatic relations with Israel.
Much, however, will depend on the positions of Jordan’s King Hussein, and it is within that context that observers are studying the upcoming Murphy mission and Weizman’s hitherto unannounced trip to Europe.
Hussein is due in London this week for a private visit and medical treatment.
SUMMIT DEPENDS ON HUSSEIN’S COOPERATION
While there is virtually no prospect of Jordanian participation at the Israeli-Egyptian summit, any concrete progress achieved by Peres and Mubarak would heavily depend on Jordan’s vicarious cooperation.
Hence, according to well-placed observers, Mubarak’s thorough coordination with Jordan in advance of the summit: The President and the King met in Amman, Jordan last week, and Jordanian Premier Zaid Rifai was in Cairo Sunday for further talks.
Weizman’s talks in Europe — even if he does not meet secretly with Hussein — are seen as part of Peres’ effort to persuade the neighboring moderate king to participate in the new diplomatic initiative.