Israelis are mulling over conflicting versions of where King Hussein of Jordan stands with respect to the American peace initiative, after his final talks with Secretary of State George Shultz last week.
An upbeat version was conveyed to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres by Wat Cluverius, a senior American diplomat sent by Shultz to brief Israeli leaders on his talks in Arab capitals. According to this version, Shultz was very much satisfied by his discussions with the Jordanian ruler.
But an opposite impression was left by an official statement issued in Amman by Premier Zaid al-Rifai that indicated Hussein to be uncompromising in demands for Israeli concessions.
According to that statement, Israel’s withdrawal from all of the administered territories and a full role for the Palestine Liberation Organization are Hussein’s conditions for participating in peace talks with Israel.
Sources close to Premier Yitzhak Shamir said Hussein actually hardened his positions during Shultz’s six-day visit to the region. They recalled that they had said all along that Hussein would reject Shultz’s idea of negotiations without the PLO.
Aides to Peres conceded that Jordan’s public statement does project a tougher stance. But they suggested that in private; the king may have been more flexible, contributing to Shultz’s optimism. The Foreign Ministry therefore leaked Cluverius’ report to the media Sunday.
Cluverius also met with Shamir amid reports that Shultz is tentatively planning yet another trip to the Middle East, possibly next month, after his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
SHULTZ MAY RETURN TO MIDEAST
Shultz told reporters before leaving Amman on Friday to return to Washington that he would return to the Middle East to keep the American peace initiative alive. He declined to say when.
That visit presumably would precede the next summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, scheduled to take place in Moscow from May 29 to June 2.
Foreign Ministry officials are entertaining the possibility that the two superpower foreign ministers may agree at their meeting late in April to ask the United Nations secretary general to issue invitations to an international conference along the lines proposed by Shultz.
In an Israel television interview last Wednesday, however, Shultz said that talk of invitations was “premature.”
Peres’ foreign policy adviser, Nimrod Novick, is scheduled to meet in Europe with senior Soviet Mideast experts in advance of the Shultz-Shevardnadze encounter. Novick will be speaking to Vladimir Terassov of the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
GORBACHEY PRESSES ARAFAT
Meanwhile, political circles here reacted with interest to Gorbachev’s forceful public advice to PLO chairman Yasir Arafat in Moscow this weekend to recognize Israel’s existence and its need for security.
Gorbachev’s advice to Arafat, it was noted here, was carried at length by Tass, the official Soviet news agency. Tass stressed that the Soviet leader had three times repeated his support for Israeli rights, which he told Arafat were no less important than those of the Palestinian people.
Some observers regard this as important evidence of Moscow’s determination to play a central role in Middle East peace diplomacy. They cite reports that Shevardnadze himself is planning to visit the region, though presumably not Israel.
Israel and the Soviet Union presently have no formal diplomatic relations, though a Soviet consular delegation is currently in Israel and a reciprocal visit is planned by an Israeli delegation.
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.