PARIS (Jan. 2)
Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens will meet U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz in Paris early next week.
It will be the first American-Israeli contact at the ministerial level since Shultz announced Dec. 14 that the United States would open talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Arens is due here on Friday for four days of meetings with world leaders. His purpose is to explain Israel’s positions and try to counter the growing tendency of Western diplomats to recognize the PLO as a suitable negotiating partner in the Middle East.
Israeli sources said they hoped that Shultz will give Israel some details of the U.S. talks with the PLO. The first encounter was in Tunis on Dec. 16.
The next meeting is expected later this week, although Washington insisted last week there would be none before the Bush administration takes office Jan. 20.
Israelis also hope the outgoing secretary of state will give some indication of the new administration’s plans with respect to the PLO and the Middle East in general.
Arens and Shultz will meet at an extended working breakfast here. The Israeli foreign minister will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Also with him will be Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arad, and Ovadia Soffer, Israel’s ambassador to France.
This will be Arens’ first trip abroad since he became foreign minister last month. He will represent Israel at a U.N.-sponsored conference on banning chemical weapons. More than 140 countries are attending.
Israeli officials said Arens will use the international gathering to lobby for Israel’s positions and stress its desire to negotiate peace directly with its Arab neighbors.
Arens has meetings scheduled with Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid and with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
He might also confer with foreign ministers of Eastern European countries and possibly with a representative of the People’s Republic of China.