JERUSALEM (Aug. 5)
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher appears to be making headway in his role as Israeli-Syrian intermediary.
He returned here Thursday carrying what was characterized by Israeli officials as “good news” from Damascus, and announced, after meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, that he would make a second, unscheduled trip to Damascus on Friday.
The announcement gives additional weight to the optimistic assessments Christopher has made of his discussions this week with leaders in Jerusalem and Damascus.
According to an aide to Christopher, the secretary had taken on the role of intermediary at the request of both the Israelis and Syrians.
Christopher also made a stop in Jordan on Thursday, where he discussed the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation with King Hussein.
Before leaving for Amman, Christopher told his Israeli hosts that the peace process had been “salvaged” and was back on track. He had praise for “the serious engagement of all the parties.”
Christopher spent some two hours meeting with Rabin, reporting on his talks Tuesday in Syria and Lebanon.
No details of the talks were disclosed, but speaking to reporters after the meeting, Rabin struck an optimistic note.
The prime minister later told a Labor Party meeting that there were positive changes in the positions of the Syrians, Lebanese and Jordanians with regard to the peace process. He added, however, that Israel might have to make decisions that will not be easy.
Rabin also criticized the Palestinians, saying it is difficult to know to whom one is talking when negotiating with them. He was reported to have called them unstable and less than serious.
Palestinian chief negotiator Faisal Husseini made a surprise visit Thursday morning to Christopher at the King David Hotel. No details of their discussion were disclosed.
UPBEAT ABOUT SESSION WITH PALESTINIANS
Immediately after the meeting with Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Christopher left for Jordan to meet with King Hussein.
During his visit in Amman, Christopher is reported to have requested clarifications from Hussein regarding Jordan’s position on a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation.
Hussein reportedly responded that it is too soon to discuss a confederation since an agreement has not yet been reached to establish a Palestinian entity.
Upon his return from Amman, Christopher held meetings with the Palestinians at the American Consulate in Jerusalem.
But the head of the Palestinian delegations, Dr. Haidar Abdel-Shafi, boycotted the meeting in apparent protest over American positions.
But Christopher was upbeat as he left the meeting, saying it had accomplished “exactly what we had hoped.”
“As you know,” the secretary said, “the United States has been hoping the parties — the Israelis and the Palestinians — would develop a declaration of principles related to the interim self-governing authority.”
Christopher said he had received written comments from the Palestinians in response to some guidelines submitted by the United States a few weeks ago.
“It’s useful to have those, and I think it’s a reflection of the seriousness of purpose of the Palestinians,” he said.
The secretary added that his team would study the comments and then respond to the Palestinian delegation.
While upbeat in his comments about the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, Christopher maintained earlier this week that this is “a difficult time” for the Palestinian talks. They and the Israelis are deadlocked over the extent of Palestinian autonomy to implement at this stage.