Shamir Reported to Be Considering Egyptian Mediation of Peace Talks

The United States on Thursday welcomed details of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s new peace offensive that have emerged in press reports, but said it had not officially been presented with a formal peace plan.

Press reports from Israel on Thursday quoted Shamir as saying that he would like to see Egypt mediate talks between Israel and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The talks would have the blessing of the United States and the Soviet Union.

An Israeli newspaper also reported that Foreign Minister Moshe Arens would meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Esmat Abdel Meguid, on Jan. 8 in Paris, where they will be attending an international conference on chemical weapons.

There was no confirmation of these reports from official government agencies in Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz will also be in Paris to attend the conference, the State Department announced last week.

Officials at the Israeli and Egyptian embassies here said they could not confirm reports of a meeting between Arens and Meguid.

But Egyptian Embassy spokesman Mohammed Wahby said that if Meguid is in Paris with Arens “within the framework of the normal relations” between Egypt and Israel, “they should meet.” Egyptian foreign policy includes “encouraging all contacts with Israel,” he added.

NOT THE TIME FOR ‘FALSE PROPOSALS’

Wahby said Shamir’s peace ideas are still in “outline” form. “He has not given us the details,” he said.

Similarly, a State Department source said Likud members of government have recently discussed a “series of ideas not necessarily coalesced into a specific plan.”

According to the source, Shamir’s formula is modeled on the 1978 Camp David peace accords, which specify a three- to five-year interim autonomy period for Palestinians in the administered territories, during which negotiations for the final disposition of the territories would take place.

State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley had no comment Thursday about any new Shamir peace initiative. But a department source said, “We welcome ideas by the parties that would advance the peace process. If this idea would advance the peace process, certainly we would welcome it.”

However, the source added that this is not a time for “false proposals” that are “not serious and are not designed to move the process forward.”

The latest twist to Middle East diplomacy follows Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s offer last weekend to visit Israel if such a meeting would yield substantive progress toward resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Later, close aides to Mubarak indicated that the Egyptian leader would visit Israel only after the Jewish state was willing to enter a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Wahby played down that statement Thursday, saying Mubarak’s main precondition for visiting Israel was that it be more than a “ceremonial visit” He said Mubarak is willing to do what is necessary to achieve peace, “include going to Israel.”

Mubarak’s proposal was “very open-ended” and “does not seem to have elicited the response that we expected,” Wahby added.

“Unfortunately, things got a little bit complicated,” he said. “But at the same time we still hope that all avenues toward peace would be explored.”

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli Embassy here.

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