WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
Secretary of State George Shultz stressed Sunday that Jordan will continue to play a central role in the Middle East peace process, despite King Hussein’s move to cut official ties with the West Bank.
Hussein “has to be a partner, and everybody recognizes that, because Jordan has the longest border with Israel of any Arab state,” Shultz said in an appearance on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”
“So if there is going to be peace between Israel and its neighbors, then Jordan is involved,” the secretary said.
The State Department said Friday that the king’s latest moves will be discussed when Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, arrives in Amman this week.
Murphy will also be visiting Israel, Syria and Egypt after meetings in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday with his Soviet counterpart, Vladimir Polyakov.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman also said Friday that Washington does not believe that Hussein’s decision to cancel a five-year development plan for the West Bank is a signal of “any lessening of Jordan’s intention to be actively involved in the peace process.”
SUPPORT FOR JOINT DELEGATION
Redman added that the United States still believes that the “best opportunity for Palestinian participation in negotiations (with Israel) is in a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation.”
However, official Jordanian statements have pointed to the recent Arab summit in Algiers, which adopted resolutions opposing such a joint delegation led by Jordan.
The development plan has been denounced by the Palestine Liberation Organization and some Arab countries as an attempt by Hussein to compete with the PLO for influence on the West Bank.
A Jordanian statement said that the decision to drop the economic plan was made at the request of PLO leader Yasir Arafat and to “allow the PLO to shoulder its responsibility.”
Hussein’s action was seen by some as an attempt to demonstrate to Palestinians on the West Bank, where Hussein’s influence is waning, that they still need him and cannot count on the PLO alone.
Shultz explained the decision Sunday as recognition by Hussein that “the Palestinians living on the West Bank and Gaza have asserted themselves as wanting to speak for themselves.”
But Shultz ruled out the PLO as “a suitable peace partner.” He reaffirmed the U.S. position that it will not have any contacts with the PLO until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist, renounces terrorism and accepts U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and 338, which call for the return of Arab land and recognize Israel’s right to exist inside secure borders.
“We need to keep the pressure on the PLO to recognize that Israel is there, Israel is going to stay there, it’s a fact of life,” the secretary said.
And he said the PLO “might as well accept the fact and they ought to stop the terrorism and recognize that 242 and 338 are the roads to peace.”
KISSINGER AGAINST NEW EFFORT
At the same time, Shultz stressed that “we are and always have been ready to meet with Palestinians, and I’ve met with some.” He said there are “credible Palestinians” who are not members of the PLO.
But on Shultz’s last visit to Israel in June, Palestinians refused to attend a scheduled meeting with him because of pressure from the PLO.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday that although Shultz made a “courageous effort” to bring about peace in the Middle East, he should not return to the area, because nothing can be done to move the process forward in the waning days of the Reagan administration.
“I do not think anything could be accomplished before the new administration comes in,” Kissinger said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.” “We need a reassessment of the whole situation in light of the American and Israeli elections.”
Israel is expected to hold its Knesset elections Nov. 1, one week before the Nov. 8 presidential election in the United States.
U.S. BACKED DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Jordan’s economic development plan was warmly welcomed by Shultz when Hussein announced it in 1986. The secretary has often preached to Israel and Jordan the need to improve the “quality of life” for residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hussein announced the plan to provide funds for schools, water, agricultural projects and welfare in the West Bank, after his attempt to work with Arafat on the peace process collapsed.
Redman noted Friday that the United States has a longstanding policy of support for economic and social development on the West Bank, which Washington has supported by providing funds to private voluntary organizations working in the territory.
This year, the United States contributed $7 million to these groups, Redman said. The contribution was $14 million in 1987 and $5.5 million in 1986.