JERUSALEM (May. 4)
A statement by Jordan’s Prime Minister Zeid Rifai Sunday night that his country would participate in an international conference for Middle East peace drew mixed reactions in Israel.
Sources close to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres welcomed it as “an obvious indication that significant progress has been made.” But Premier Yitzhak Shamir dismissed Rifai’s announcement as “nothing new.” He said the Arab countries wanted an international conference because Israel’s position at such a forum would be weak.
Some observers said Rifai’s statement was the first official acknowledgement by Jordan that King Hussein and Peres have agreed, through American mediation, to guidelines for holding a peace conference.
Others noted that it was ambiguous and gave no indication that Jordan accepted Peres’ stipulation that the conference would be only an “opening” framework for bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan and other parties to the Middle East conflict.
PERES TO PRESENT PLAN TO INNER CABINET
It was reported, nevertheless, that Peres had informed Shamir in writing that he plans to present his proposals to the Inner Cabinet on Wednesday. The two men are scheduled to meet privately Tuesday. It was not certain whether Peres’ position will be strengthened by the statement from Amman.
Rifai said there was no point in continuing efforts to convene a conference as long as the Israeli government is divided and cannot make up its mind, a reference to the ongoing dispute between the Labor and Likud coalition partners over the issue.
The Jordanian Prime Minister also denied reports that Hussein met in secret with Peres or any other Israeli leaders recently. He made clear that Jordan wants the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the process, a condition unacceptable to Israel.
But Rifai said the PLO could participate only if it renounces terrorism and accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which imply recognition of Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.