Envoy Says U.S. Has Not Shut Door on International Peace Conference

The Reagan administration leans toward an international conference to open direct peace talks between Israel and Jordan and other Arab states, United States Ambassador Thomas Pickering indicated Monday night.

Addressing a Labor Party forum in Haifa, the American envoy seemed to support the views of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres over Premier Yitzhak Shamir, who recently claimed that the administration agreed with him that the conference scenario is dead.

Shamir based his belief on remarks attributed to U.S. Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci at a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Washington on Nov. 11. Peres, for his part, quoted Secretary of State George Shultz as saying an international conference remains a valid option.

Pickering said that both Carlucci and Shultz “are persuaded that Jordan needs an international mechanism to get talks with Israel started.” He said Shultz told Shamir only last week that “We don’t rule out an international conference.”

Pickering’s flat statement seemed to bear out Peres’ reading of the American position on the issue. The foreign minister was asked by reporters Sunday to comment on Carlucci’s remarks as cited by Shamir.

Peres’ reply was that obituaries for the international conference scenario were premature — “wishful thinking” on the part of those opposed to the idea. He made the remark after attending memorial services marking the 14 anniversary of the death of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, at Sde Boker in the Negev.

‘NO DEADLINE’ FOR PEACE PROCESS

In his remarks the following day, Pickering also said that the United States “had no deadline for the peace process” and denied that it would be suspended because of the American presidential elections next year. “We must move the process ahead,” he declared.

He implied criticism of Israel’s policies in the administered territories, saying it must do more to improve the quality of life and human rights for the Palestinians under Israeli rule.

“Deportations, administrative detention and home detention, without due process of law, do not meet the standards our two countries share regarding human rights,” Pickering said.

He pledged that the American administration will do all it can to honor its commitments of economic aid to Israel and Egypt during the coming year, despite fiscal problems. Concern has been expressed in Israel that the United States may reduce economic and military aid in the process of cutting its huge federal budget deficit.

Pickering was questioned about American intervention to block the deportation of Mubarak Awad, a Jerusalem-born, naturalized American citizen who advocates peaceful resistance to Israel’s administration of the territories.

Awad was to have been expelled on Nov. 20, but the order was not carried out, apparently because of complaints from Washington. Pickering said he was “in touch with the (Israeli) government, and our effort is very clear.”

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