TEL AVIV (Dec. 27)
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering warned Monday that the status quo in the Middle East is too dangerous to be allowed to continue.
He maintained at a farewell news conference here and in television interviews that there is now a one-time opportunity to end violence and begin contacts between the opposing parties.
He said he is sure Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir will follow through on his promise to offer a new peace initiative.
Pickering, who is slated to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reiterated that the American dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization is just that — a dialogue — and nothing more.
“It doesn’t involve such things as the recognition of an independent Palestinian state,” he said, pledging the talks would be cut off if the PLO resumed terrorist acts.
But the envoy acknowledged that the United States and Israel “have a different perception of the dialogue with the PLO.”
The dialogue was initiated only after the United States was convinced that PLO leader Yasir Arafat had met the conditions demanded by Washington for contact with the PLO, Pickering said.
Israel was informed of the American decision only a day or so in advance.
Pickering sent a farewell message to Shamir on Sunday, expressing his “great pleasure working with you in this country.”
He thanked the prime minister for being “unfailingly helpful to me personally and deeply supportive of the American relationship.”
Pickering said he was proud to have been associated during his tenure “with a number of forward steps in the U.S.-Israeli relationship.”
He mentioned the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation.