Thatcher, Reagan Agree Mideast Peace Conference Shouldn’t Force Asolution

President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agreed during a White House meeting Friday that an international conference on the Middle East would not be permitted to impose a solution or veto agreements reached between Israel and the Arab countries.

The two also agreed that only direct negotiations could bring about a settlement to the Arab-Israel conflict, Thatcher said in her departure statement on the south lawn of the White House after the two-hour meeting.

Thatcher met with Reagan during her one-day visit here after discussing the possibility of an international conference recently with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and King Hussein of Jordan.

Reagan, in bidding farewell to Thatcher, spoke only in general terms, noting that the two had “reviewed the general prospects for peace in the Middle East, including the proposals for an international conference and the conditions necessary for peace negotiations to be successful.”

Thatcher was more specific, stressing that she was describing what the two had “formally endorsed.”

“We agreed that direct negotiations between the parties are the only practical way to proceed,” Thatcher explained. “We explored how an international conference might contribute to bring about such negotiations. Clearly it would not have the right to impose solutions or to veto agreements reached by the parties. We must continue to make progress in the peace process and commit ourselves to work for that.”

While the U.S. has been advocating the need to consider if an international conference could lead to direct negotiations, Britain and the other members of the European Community have more directly urged such a conference. A senior Administration official told reporters that Britain and the U.S. were not engaged in a joint effort in the Mideast peace process, but that Reagan and Thatcher had explored how such a conference should be set up.

Thatcher stressed that both the U.S. and Britain are committed to seeking to take advantage of the “diversity of opportunity” that now exists to move the Mideast peace process forward.

“The countries of the region should not have to go on spending such enormous sums on defense rather than on their development,” she said. “We must help them take the difficult steps necessary for peace.”

A great portion of Friday’s meeting was devoted to the Iran-Iraq war. Both Reagan and Thatcher expressed support for a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

“We believe that the United Nations Secretary General should personally undertake a mission to achieve that end.” Reagan said. “If either or both the warring parties refuse the United Nations call for a cessation of the fighting, then an arms embargo should be bought to bear on those who reject the chance to end this bloody and senseless conflict.”

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