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U.S. Official Says Mideast Peace Process Should Not Become Hostage to the Internal Politics of the P

April 23, 1987
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The Middle East peace process should not become “hostage to the internal politics of the PLO,” a State Department official said Tuesday. But Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, admitted that the Palestine Liberation Organization’s repudiation of its 1985 accord with Jordan on a joint approach to peace at its conference this week in Algiers may be a “diversion” from negotiations.

“It (the repudiation) does nothing to get the negotiations started,” Murphy said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It may prove to be a diversion in getting the Palestinians to the table in a joint Jordanian-Palestinian conference.”

He added, “We don’t think the peace process should become hostage to internal politics of the PLO and we will continue our efforts to give a hand to people in the region who are suffering from a lack of progress in the peace process. “Murphy said a Jordanian statement Tuesday indicated that the Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in Algeria would not “change the principle that they’re interested in getting to negotiations.”


Earlier Tuesday, State Department spokesman Charles Redman refused to comment on the PNC conference. But Redman said the U.S. expressed to Algeria its concern it has admitted to the country Abu Abbas, the terrorist accused of spearheading the October 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in which an American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered. The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Algeria.

Murphy described the PNC conference as “the continued mining by the PLO of that rich vein of frustration and sense of despair that they can’t make their voices heard and achieve their rights.” The repudiation of the 1985 accord was an attempt to “bring back to the fold some radicals,” he said. But he noted that the conference decided not to break ties with Egypt.

Murphy said the PLO raid Sunday into Israel, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, was clearly timed to coincide with the conference. But he told the Congressmen it would be very difficult for the PLO to open a major front in Israel.

On the subject of peace talks, Murphy said U.S. attempts to start direct talks between Israel and Jordan have been stalemated over the issue of an international peace conference.

“We are trying to iron out the difficulties. Direct negotiations have problems for the Arabs who don’t want negotiations without an international conference. They feel they must have international legitimization,” Murphy said. “But we’re worried that the conference could become a political theater for excessive rhetoric and make things messy,” he added.

Murphy said he expected visits to Washington sometime this year by King Hussein of Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

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