Christopher Warns Mideast Parties to Adopt a More Flexible Approach

The Israeli and Arab negotiators in the Middle East peace talks must take a more flexible approach toward one another for the negotiations to move forward, Secretary of State Warren Christopher told a congressional panel this week.

In testimony Tuesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Christopher warned the parties they must do their part and that the United States “cannot travel this road” toward Middle East peace alone.

Christopher expressed satisfaction that all the parties — Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians — had returned to the ninth round of talks, which concluded last week.

He reported that serious discussions took place on all of the various tracks during the three-week round of talks and that, for the first time, “papers have now been tabled by all sides of a substantive character.”

“Nevertheless,” he warned, “this kind of engagement is not sufficient to produce progress, let alone agreements.”

“The parties need to see negotiations more as a process of give and take, of engagements on terms that are designed to draw them closer together, rather than to keep them mired in their traditional positions,” the secretary said.

‘THEY MUST WANT PEACE THEMSELVES’

Responding to a question from Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Christopher said the United States is “quite willing to provide” help to the negotiating parties.

“But I would emphasize that we will do our part, but they will have to do their part,” Christopher added. “We can’t want peace more than they. They must want peace themselves.”

The secretary said that the parties need to engage in more “public diplomacy,” making their constituencies aware of the talks’ importance. “They need to understand that negotiations here in Washington don’t exist in a vacuum,” he said.

“Reaching out to each other through public diplomacy, taking steps on the ground to reduce the possibilities of confrontation and sending signals to their constituencies about the importance of the negotiation — all those things are necessary to create a climate where serious work can be done,” the secretary said.

Christopher said a draft paper that the United States had hoped to get the Israelis and Palestinians to sign jointly was “designed not as a statement of U.S. policy, but as an effort to capture the substantive progress that the two sides had made in the last three weeks.”

The Palestinians criticized the draft as reflecting a U.S.-Israeli point of view.

In response to a question from Rep. David Levy (R-N.Y.), Christopher reiterated that the United States is committed to maintaining Israel’s aid level at $3 billion for fiscal year 1994.

“And with respect to the future, our intention is to provide the best efforts in the same direction,” the secretary said.

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