BRUSSELS (Jan. 9)
Spain is moving swiftly at the head of a European Community effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to talk peace.
Spanish Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez has invited Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat to Madrid for talks Jan. 27, E.C. sources disclosed here Monday.
Fernandez himself will be going to Jerusalem Jan. 15 for talks with Israeli leaders.
The Spanish foreign minister assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Brussels-based E.C. Council of Ministers on Jan. 1, taking over from Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias of Greece. Foreign Minister Roland Dumas of France will succeed Fernandez July 1.
The three foreign ministers constitute the “troika” mandated by their E.C. partners last month to consult and confer with Israel, the PLO and all other parties concerned to help resolve the Middle East conflict.
The troika is expected to visit Syria, Jordan and Egypt and will to talk to Arafat in Madrid.
Arafat’s new stature in diplomatic circles stems in large measure from the American decision last month to open a dialogue with the PLO.
The flurry of activity this month is in preparation for the Feb. 14 meeting of the 12 E.C. foreign ministers in Madrid.
According to a well-informed source here, the foreign ministers may use that gathering to launch an initiative for an international conference for Middle East peace under U.N. auspices.
DUTCH MAY MEET ARAFAT
Meanwhile, diplomatic sources here hinted Monday that Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek may meet Arafat later this month in Tunis.
Speculation over such an encounter followed a meeting in Tunis Sunday and Monday between a delegation of senior Dutch Foreign Ministry officials and PLO representatives.
The official objective of the Dutch mission was to find out if the PLO has really changed its attitude toward Israel.
In Amsterdam, representatives of the Jewish community expressed concern last week over the growing contacts between the Dutch government and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
A delegation representing five national Jewish organizations was received last Thursday by van den Broek prior to his departure for a conference in Paris.
The Netherlands has long been considered the most pro-Israel of the European Community nations.
(JTA correspondent Henrietta Boas in Amsterdam contributed to this report.)