JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
Wide differences over procedure continue to bedevil the Middle East peace process, according to media reports here and abroad Thursday.
There are also contradictory accounts of what, if any, new ideas U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz conveyed to King Hussein of Jordan when they met in London this week, immediately following Shultz’s three-day visit to Israel.
An international peace conference appears to be in limbo for the time being, owing largely to the unbending opposition of Premier Yitzhak Shamir. Instead, the Israeli media reported this week, a proposal was made to Hussein for bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan to be sponsored jointly by the two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union.
Al Hamishmar reported Thursday that Hussein apparently has not completely rejected the idea and agreed to have Shultz discuss it with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, with whom he is meeting in Moscow Thursday and Friday.
But, according to the report, Hussein will insist that the two superpowers have equal weight and that their sponsorship serve as the framework for bilateral Israeli-Jordanian talks, not simply a formality.
Political observers here pointed out that even if Hussein were prepared to settle for a U.S.-Soviet “umbrella” as a substitute for an international conference, there is a large gap between his and Shamir’s views on the role of the superpowers and the role of the Soviet Union relative to that of the United States.
Maariv quoted political sources in Cairo as saying that the Jordanian ruler insists on convening an international conference in a form acceptable to the Arabs and the Soviet Union.
HUSSEIN MEETS WITH SOVIET
Following his talk with Shultz in London, Hussein reportedly met with a high-ranking Soviet official, apparently the deputy foreign minister, Yuri Vorontsov, and assured him that Jordan supports Moscow’s position on everything connected with the peace process in the Middle East.
The king is also reported to have told the Soviet official that the gap has widened between himself and the American administration on the Middle East.
The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday that Hussein told Shultz that he (Hussein) would react to new proposals only after the Arab summit meeting in Amman Nov. 8.
Although Haaretz reported earlier this week that Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were in agreement on superpower sponsorship of Israel-Jordan talks, and even hinted that the idea may have come from Shamir, the prime minister’s aides reiterated Thursday that he was firmly opposed to both an international conference and negotiations under Soviet-American auspices.
Meanwhile, a report from Helsinki, where Shultz stopped over Wednesday before going to Moscow, described the secretary of state as deeply frustrated that the emphasis now is not on the substance of a Middle East peace settlement but on how to get the Israelis and Arabs together at a mutually acceptable forum.