LONDON (Sep. 14)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel says he is prepared to negotiate peace directly with any Palestinians who renounce violence and accept Israel’s existence.
His remarks to a British radio interviewer on his arrival here Wednesday were a departure from his longstanding insistence that Palestinian negotiating partners be part of a Jordanian delegation.
The best option would be to meet a joint delegation of Palestinians and Jordanians, Peres said. But as second best, Israel should meet two separate delegations.
He is expected to amplify his views at a news conference Thursday. Peres came to London for talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The foreign minister, who favors an international peace conference, continues to believe that Jordan has a role to play in the Israeli-administered territories, despite King Hussein’s decision this summer to cut ties to the West Bank.
Peres will try to convince Thatcher, a friend of the king’s, that the Jordanian option is not dead. He also will try to persuade the British to withhold endorsement of the Palestine Liberation Organization, sought by PLO chief Yasir Arafat on his visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week.
Peres came to London partly to counter Arafat’s latest diplomatic offensive and to fire some shots of his own in the Israeli election campaign.
Urging talks with non-violent Palestinians over the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Peres declared there is no alternative but to talk and negotiate.
The time has come for an international conference over the Arab-Israeli conflict, but it is nevertheless primarily a conflict the Israelis and Palestinians must resolve for themselves, he said.
He accused the PLO of trying and failing to “squeeze a military option” out of the Palestinian uprising. And moderate Palestinians in the West Bank have failed to “squeeze a political option” out of the PLO, he said.