WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
Secretary of State George Shultz indicated Friday that he was unable to get the Soviet Union to go along with a new proposal for negotiations between Israel and Jordan under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union.
“We haven’t made any particular progress in the varying concepts we have about that,” Shultz said at a press conference in Moscow following two days of talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The press conference was seen here as it was held over the Cable News Network (CNN).
Shultz was apparently referring to the latest proposal to have Moscow and Washington jointly host negotiations between Jordan and Israel, as well as the earlier proposal for an international conference which would include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The Soviets have backed Jordan and other Arab countries in pressing for the international conference. The issue has divided the government of national unity in Israel, with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his Labor colleagues supporting the concept as the only way to bring Jordan into the negotiations while Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Likud are vehemently opposed because of a belief the Soviets would use it to press anti-Israel actions.
During Shultz’s visit to the Middle East en route to Moscow, Shamir and Peres apparently agreed to allow Shultz to raise the new concept with the Soviets.
However, Shultz has never publicly acknowledged that there is such a proposal. Shamir told Israel Army Radio that it was agreed not to disclose the plan while the U.S. official was in the Soviet Union.
The proposal is aimed at avoiding the term “international conference” since it calls for direct talks between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation under U.S.-Soviet auspices.
OPPOSITION FROM TEHIYA
But the existence of the proposal became public in Israel and has already drawn fire from some members of Likud and the rightwing Tehiya Party, which has submitted a non-confidence motion in the Knesset.
Shultz’s response on the Mideast process came in an answer to a question from a Soviet reporter. The secretary stressed that the United States has been a “helpful partner” in seeking peace in the Mideast.
He added that in addition to seeking peace, “We have made many efforts to improve the quality of life” for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. He said during his recent visit he discussed what is being done on this with both Israel and Jordan.
Meanwhile, the major obstacle to either an international conference or to the new proposal is the insistence by both Israel and the United States that before the Soviet Union can participate in the Middle East peace process it must restore diplomatic relations with Israel and allow Soviet Jews to emigrate in greater numbers.
Shultz indicated Friday that he was pleased that efforts on human rights were being developed “carefully and systematically.” He noted it was a major issue in his talks with Shevardnadze and had been discussed by a working group of U.S. and Soviet officials.
MEETS WITH REFUSENIKS
The secretary met briefly Thursday with about 60 refuseniks, which included persons seeking to immigrate to Israel or to rejoin spouses in the United States. Many were the same people who attended a Passover seder hosted by Shultz at the U.S. Embassy when he was in Moscow last spring.
Richard Shifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, said the Soviets had set up a commission, promised last spring, to review the cases of refuseniks and will announce decisions within six months.
According to reports from Moscow, Shifter stressed that while progress is being made on Soviet emigration policies, “we still have a very, very hard road ahead.”
Emigration from the Soviet Union increased this year to 5,403 by the end of September and has included some well-known long-time refuseniks like Iosif Begun, Ida Nudel and Vladimir Slepak. But Soviet Jewry activists in the United States note there are nearly 400,000 Jews who want to emigrate and new applicants are being discouraged by a strict new law.
Meanwhile, Shultz ended four-and-a-half hours of talks with Gorbachev Friday without the Soviet leader accepting President Reagan’s invitation to a summit in Washington this year. The announcement of a date for the summit had been widely expected before Shultz went to Moscow.
Shultz said Gorbachev told him he would write a letter to Reagan, and the disappointed secretary added, “we’ll be checking the mail.”
If Gorbachev does come to Washington, thousands of American Jews and non-Jews are expected to greet him with a massive demonstration on behalf of Soviet Jewry.