TEL AVIV (Oct. 21)
A ranking U.S. official briefed Premier Yitzhak Shamir on talks Secretary of State George Shultz had with King Hussein of Jordan in London this week as speculation mounted here that Shultz’s recent visit to Israel may have advanced the Middle East peace process more than originally indicated.
Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, arrived from London for a surprise visit Wednesday and immediately met with Shamir, who was recovering from a cataract operation, and later with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
No details of their conversation were disclosed. But Murphy is believed to have informed Shamir of Hussein’s response to a new proposal for superpower sponsorship of bilateral peace talks between Jordan and Israel.
According to sources here, a positive response by Jordan would improve chances of Soviet acceptance of the idea which, some media reports hinted, may have originated with Shamir.
Haaretz reported Wednesday that Shamir and Peres have agreed on a new formula for peace talks which would be defined as direct talks within the framework of superpower sponsorship, not as an international conference.
Shultz may have been making an oblique reference to this when he said at a news conference here Sunday that he would try “to find some avenues” with which Shamir could be “more comfortable than he obviously is with the international conference.”
SHAMIR REMAINED FIRM
Shamir’s media adviser, Avi Pazner, has repeatedly denied what he called “press speculation regarding so-called changes in the prime minister’s stand on an international conference.”
Pazner said Shamir remained firm in his conviction that the only road to Middle East peace is direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors.
According to Haaretz, direct talks under superpower sponsorship would enable Shamir to respond to charges by right-wing critics in his Herut Party that he was surrendering to American pressure for an international conference.
Davar reported Wednesday that Hussein has not entirely rejected Shamir’s idea and discussed it with Soviet diplomats. The paper said the Jordanian ruler had talks in London with the Soviet deputy foreign minister about proposals brought from Jerusalem by Shultz and that Hussein met with the secretary of state immediately afterward for an unscheduled round of talks.
Davar quoted observers to the effect that Hussein is trying to determine whether the Soviets are willing to participate in the peace process under conditions set forth by Israel. These include the restoration of diplomatic relations and broader emigration rights for Jews in the USSR. Shultz, who flew from London to Helsinki, was expected to bring up these issues when he meets in Moscow with Soviet officials Thursday and Friday.
The secretary of state is also expected to discuss the Soviet government’s practice of denying Jews permission to emigrate because they possess “state secrets.”
Last week, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry briefed Shultz on the problem and presented the secretary a report he had requested on the matter. The report was prepared for NCSJ by the New York-based international law firm of White and Case.