JERUSALEM (Nov. 9)
A break-through in the peace talks between Israel and Jordan will soon occur, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has told reporters here.
Peres, who has not denied reports that he met at length with King Hussein of Jordan in Amman last week, offered the prediction Tuesday as the results began coming in from Jordan’s parliamentary elections, which were held Monday.
Islamic fundamentalists, who oppose the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, lost ground.
The fundamentalists, who had 22 seats in the lower house of the Jordanian Parliament, lost six seats in the elections, thereby dashing their hopes for gaining a majority.
The voting was for the 80 seats in the lower house. The 40 members of the upper house are appointed by Hussein.
Israeli and Arab observers consider the voting results a shot in the arm for the peace process in general, and for the prospects of Israeli-Jordanian progress in particular.
While both countries remain cagey, some observers were predicting a “summit” among President Clinton, Rabin and Hussein in Washington over the weekend.
The Israeli leader is due at the White House on Friday — the same time Hussein is flying to the United States for medical tests.
Hussein, in a post-election news conference in Amman on Tuesday, said he was enormously “pleased and proud” of the election results.
He said they reflected “a growing sense of responsibility which satisfies me no end and fills me with pride.”
The monarch said the peace process, which had “started with the last parliament, will continue hopefully with this parliament.”
“I hope all will cooperate to achieve the best results,” he said. “My commitment is for peace.”
‘ENCOURAGING’ ELECTION RESULTS
A spokesman for the Islamic fundamentalist party in Jordan, meanwhile, vowed its continued rejection of “the Zionist conquest.”
Israel Radio said Tuesday that there had been meetings between Israeli and Jordanian officials subsequent to the Hussein-Peres session last week and that they had achieved an “agreement in principle” to hold a summit.
In Brussels, where he was making his first official visit to European Community headquarters, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat said he expected Israel and Jordan to sign a treaty of friendship within a few days.
Peres, briefing the visiting King Juan Carlos of Spain on the unfolding peace process, described the election results in Jordan as “encouraging.”
Juan Carlos was on a three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by a ruling European monarch, to sign joint Israeli-Spanish economic agreements and ease the strains that have marred relations between the two countries in the past.
Peres stressed the importance the Israeli government attaches to an agreement with Jordan.
He said an Israeli-Jordanian agreement, along with the self-rule accord Israel has signed with the PLO, would lay the foundations for vibrant economic cooperation in the region.
Peres has been calling for the establishment of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, arguing that a long-term understanding between the two parties is the key to stability in the region.
Israel and Jordan signed an agenda for establishing the framework for a future treaty in Washington on Sept. 14, the day after Israel and the PLO signed their historic accord.
Israeli officials said at the time that the agenda signed with Jordan was a more substantive document, not just a procedural outline, because it contained all the elements of a peace treaty.
Many Israeli observers have feared, however, that Hussein would not be prepared to advance to a peace treaty with Israel as long as no substantial progress was made on the Israeli-Syrian track, which has been stalled for months.
But last week’s lengthy session with Peres is believed to have allayed at least some of his doubts about signing an agreement with Israel.