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Hussein to Address Europeans; Ministers to Issue Statement

February 9, 1988
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King Hussein of Jordan arrived here Sunday night on a three-day visit that will be highlighted by his address Tuesday to the foreign ministers of the 12 European Community member states.

The Jordanian ruler is expected to continue to lobby strenuously for an international peace conference, which he insists he must have as an umbrella for negotiations with Israel. The idea has been supported by the EC in the past.

The foreign ministers, who constitute the EC Council of Ministers, currently under the chairmanship of West Germany, is considered likely to issue a new statement on the Arab-Israeli conflict after their meeting with Hussein.

While it is rare for a visiting foreign leader to address the Council of Ministers, it is not without precedent. Last year, the privilege was accorded Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who also is a strong supporter of an international peace conference as a prelude to direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The issue has sharply divided Israel’s unity government. The Labor Party backs Peres. Premier Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud bloc are vehemently opposed to the international conference scenario.

West German officials have been preparing the public for a “new European initiative” in the Middle East, implying that a major diplomatic move is imminent. It may be launched with the policy statement the EC ministers are expected to issue after hearing Hussein.

Observers here believe it will go beyond past declarations, such as that issued in Venice in June 1983, which supported Palestinian rights to self-determination and called for the Palestine Liberation Organization to be “associated” with future peace negotiations.


Another declaration on the Middle East is expected to emerge from a meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday of the heads of state and government of the 12 EC nations.

That meeting will be devoted mainly to economic issues, but the Middle East situation is considered almost certain to be on the agenda.

Israeli diplomats are waging an uphill battle, meanwhile, to persuade the Strasbourg-based Parliament of Europe to ratify a series of trade accords Israel has signed with the EC.

The Parliament of Europe is the EC’s legislative body. Its ratification of the accords, normally a routine matter, was delayed last month in what was seen as an expression of displeasure with the harsh measures employed by Israel to quell Palestinian rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The accords affect Israeli products on the European market, particularly agricultural exports. They would reduce some tariffs and eliminate others. Failure to ratify them would not only impose hardships on Israeli exporters, but would be seen worldwide as a form of economic sanctions against Israel.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has spoken out against economic sanctions, which he believes would be counterproductive to the peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But several factions in the European Parliament are set against ratification. Parliamentary leaders were to decide Monday whether to bring the matter to the floor for a vote.

Several of them told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday that further delay would be in Israel’s long-term interest, because a vote this week may well result in a negative outcome.

Any treaty or accord must be endorsed by at least 200 of the Parliament’s 518 deputies. On the average, no more than 350 deputies show up for any session.

“We know that Israeli exporters are losing heavily,” one leading deputy told the JTA. “But a possible defeat on the Parliament’s floor could have serious political and legal repercussions. Maybe its a good idea to wait another few weeks,” the deputy said.

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