JERUSALEM (Aug. 1)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir announced Thursday that Israel is willing to participate in a Middle East peace conference, subject “to a satisfactory solution of the issue of Palestinian-Arab representation in the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.”
He said he would bring the matter before the Cabinet on Sunday and recommend approval.
Shamir made the announcement after a 90-minute meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who flew here from Moscow on Thursday morning and appeared elated by Shamir’s qualified “yes.”
President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced Wednesday in Moscow that they would jointly convene a regional conference in October, to which all parties concerned would be invited. Bush dispatched Baker to Jerusalem to get Israel’s assent.
“That is the ‘yes’ we were hoping for from the Israelis,” said Baker, sporting a broad smile.
He went on to observe, “It is fitting that today, just hours before the anniversary of Iraq’s brutal invasion of Kuwait, we are here talking peace.”
Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990.
“Because aggression was defeated, that gives moderation a chance to come forward and to bloom,” Baker said.
He called the Israeli response “extraordinarily positive and significant.”
Shamir’s meeting with Baker was attended by Foreign Minister David Levy and Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
Their agreement included two significant concessions by Israel.
A non-participating U.N. observer will attend the peace conference and the conference could be reconvened after its ceremonial opening, if Israel approves.
Israel had long objected to any U.N. presence, even a passive one. It had also insisted that the conference disband permanently as soon as direct bilateral talks began.
Palestinian representation remains. the knottiest issue to be resolved.
Israel absolutely refuses to meet with Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem or with anyone connected with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Jerusalem is at odds with the United States over a proposed memorandum of understanding between them that would permit an East Jerusalem resident in the Palestinian delegation when the second round of negotiations on autonomy begins in three years.
East Jerusalem residents are excluded from the first round of talks by agreement between the United States and Israel. But no memorandum was signed.
The issue of the second round was left purposely unresolved.
The American secretary of state is scheduled to meet with a delegation of Palestinians before he leaves Israel on Friday.