Premier Yitzhak Shamir confirmed Monday night that he had received a message from President Reagan urging him to respond to every possible opening for peace in the Middle East.
Shamir, interviewed by the Israeli media in Paris where he is on the three-day visit, would neither confirm nor deny press reports that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met secretly with King Hussein of Jordan 10 days ago and that they reached agreement on procedures for holding an international conference for Middle East peace.
Shamir said he never commented on “such leaks…regarding the most highly classified state secrets.” He acknowledged he had received Reagan’s message in Jerusalem, before he left for France, but denied that it specifically encouraged the international conference option which Peres supports and he strongly opposes.
According to media reports here Tuesday, Reagan’s message to Shamir spoke of an historic opportunity which must not be missed.
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS FUEL SPECULATION
The latest developments fueled speculation that the Labor-Likud dispute over an international conference is fast coming to a head, with ominous portents for the survival of the unity coalition government. Peres, interviewed in Haifa Tuesday, stated flatly that he would go to the electorate if the government failed to seize the present opportunity for peace.
He stressed in that connection that this year is crucial because 1988 is a Presidential election year in the U.S. which usually means a hiatus in Washington’s diplomatic activism overseas.
Likud Minister Moshe Arens, who just returned from a mission to Washington on behalf of Shamir, was unable to say Tuesday that he had convinced Secretary of State George Shultz to oppose the international conference scenario.
On the contrary, well-placed Likud sources indicated that Arens found Shultz leaning more than ever toward Peres’ view that an “international opening” conference would be followed by direct talks between Israel and Jordan and was the most promising approach to peace.
PERES, HUSSEIN REPORTEDLY AGREE ON A PLAN
Peres’ optimism in recent days that Hussein is likely to come to the negotiating table sparked media speculation that the Foreign Minister may have achieved something of a breakthrough with the Jordanian ruler.
Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that Peres and Hussein agreed on a 10-point plan for convening an international conference during a nine hour secret meeting in the Arava region of the Negev. Peres’ office officially denied that account.
But Labor Party sources said the 10 points were hammered out by the U.S. State Department’s veteran Middle East diplomat Wat Cluverius during a recent round of shuttling between Amman and Jerusalem. Related diplomacy, according to media reports here, included the recent visit to Washington of Labor Party chairman Rafi Edri, a close confidant of Peres. Edri flew from Washington to Morocco on a mission for Peres, Jerusalem Post correspondent Yehuda Litani reported Tuesday. Peres visited Morocco last year as the guest of King Hassan to discuss Middle East peace.
According to Litani, another Israeli envoy was dispatched to another Arab country on a similar mission. Neither the envoy nor the Arab country were identified.
Shamir’s office, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday stressing that the Prime Minister is always ready to launch direct negotiations with Jordan, with appropriate Palestinian delegates and with other Arab states.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.