WASHINGTON (Mar. 21)
The differing U.S. and Soviet views toward an international peace conference on the Middle East will be on the agenda during the meetings here this week between Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, a senior State Department official said Monday.
The Soviet view is “quite different from ours,” Rozanne Ridgway, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, said Monday, as the three days of meetings began. She said the Soviets see it as a “plenary conference,” where the five United Nations Security Council members could impose a solution.
The United States and Israel, however, view the conference as a ceremonial meeting that would not have the power to dictate a resolution. It would occur two weeks prior to the first round of Arab-Israeli negotiations on instituting additional autonomy measures on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“We proposed a conference that is not able to impose solutions on the parties, not able to veto any agreements that are made by the parties, but is a vehicle for getting negotiations started,” Shultz said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. He noted that the United States vetoed the Soviet concept when Moscow offered it as a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Shultz and Shevardnadze were scheduled to begin their talks late Monday and continue with sessions through Wednesday. Shevardnadze also will meet with President Reagan Wednesday.
They may also discuss whether an international conference could be held under joint U.S.–Soviet auspices without involving the other three Security Council members: the People’s Republic of China, Britain and France.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir noted last week in Washington that while he opposes an international conference, he had consented to negotiations under superpower sponsorship when proposed by Shultz before the Washington summit last December. But King Hussein of Jordan rejected it.
Ridgway said that U.S. officials will bring Shevardnadze “up-to-date” on the status of the peace initiative, noting he was briefed in Moscow two weeks ago by Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, after Shultz returned from the Middle East.
During the Shevardnadze visit, a working group on human rights will meet, chaired on the U.S. side by Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. Ridgway said such a gathering “always takes place during these meetings.”