From Both Sides of the Jordan River, Leaders Speculate That Peace is Near

A week before his scheduled meeting with the Jordanian prime minister, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is predicting an imminent peace agreement with Jordan.

Speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Peres said peace with Jordan was “very near.”

“But I won’t give you dates and times because I don’t know what speed the Jordanians want to proceed at, nor what obstacles may still stand in the way,” Peres reportedly said.

King Hussein of Jordan, addressing his Parliament over the weekend, also spoke of reaching a swift agreement with Israel, adding that he and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were likely to meet soon.

Peres said that he and U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher will meet with Abdul Salam al-Majali, who is Jordan’s prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister, in Jordan on July 20.

Israeli officials said Peres would be the first Israeli leader to set foot publicly on Jordanian soil. The late Golda Meir was in Jordan unofficially during her term as foreign minister, and there have also been numerous reports that Hussein has met with Israeli leaders in secret.

The three-way meeting will be held two days after Israeli and Jordanian officials are scheduled to meet on the Israeli side of the border for bilateral talks that will focus on such issues as water resources, borders, security issues and environmental concerns.

Peres revealed the location of the three-way meeting during his appearance before the committee. He refused to say publicly where the historic encounter would take place. But observers believe the three-way meeting will be at a hotel on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea.

Last month, Jordan’s King Hussein said that progress in his country’s negotiations with Israel would not be dependent on progress on the Israeli-Syrian track.

In an address to his Parliament on Saturday, Hussein said that while meeting with President Clinton in Washington in June, he was urged to reach a swift settlement of all outstanding issues separating Israel and Jordan.

Speaking to a Parliament audience that included Muslim fundamentalist leaders opposed to peace with Israel, Hussein suggested that he was being pressured by Washington to move forward with Israel.

Referring to a promise he received from Clinton to ask Congress to forgive Jordan’s $1 billion debt to the United States and to provide Amman with weaponry, Hussein reportedly said:

“If my encounter with the Israeli prime minister is the price to change the image (of Jordan), I will not hesitate at all and I consider it as a duty and honor to serve my nation.”

NEXT STORY