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Arab Delegations Agree to Return to Washington for Talks with Israel

January 8, 1992
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Satisfied with the strong U.N. condemnation of Israel for ordering 12 Palestinians deported, Arab delegates were expected to return to Washington as early as Thursday to resume their face-to-face talks with Israel.

The State Department announced Tuesday that Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians have all said they will return. Syria, however, has given no indication of its intentions, said department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler.

But Hasan Abdel Rahman, director of the Washington-based Palestine Affairs Center, a group affiliated with the League of Arab States, said a high-level Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Damascus is “coordinating with the government of Syria, and it is expected that all Arab delegations will be here in the next 48 hours.”

Rahman said the Arab delegations were satisfied with the “strong language” in the unanimous resolution that the U.N. Security Council adopted Monday condemning Israel’s plan to deport 12 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rahman praised the U.S. role in backing the resolution. He pointed out that the resolution phrase that the council “strongly condemns” Israel was “first used” last week by State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher.

The choosing of those words “means that the United States is really frustrated” with Israel, he said.

Rahman said the passage of the resolution was not a “payoff to anybody” but rather an indication that “international legality is taking its role once again.”


The main dispute in the first round of direct peace talks here in December was between the Israelis and Palestinians, who could not agree on whether the Jordanians and Palestinians should be treated as one delegation or two.

The Palestinians, wanting greater legitimacy, have held out for having separate talks with the Israelis. They have proposed creating a number of subcommittees on which there would be at least one Jordanian official. Similarly, in the Jordanian talks with Israel, there would be at least one Palestinian on each subcommittee.

But Israel, citing the U.S. Soviet guidelines for the talks, is insisting on negotiating with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. Yet Israel is willing to break the talks up into subcommittees based on issues rather than on nationality, as the Palestinians insist.

Last month, the heads of those three delegations spent days together on a sofa in a State Department corridor trying to resolve that dispute.

Diplomatic movement was also taking shape here Tuesday to prepare for the multilateral conference on Middle East regional issues, slated to take place in Moscow on Jan. 28 and 29.

Yosef Hadass, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, discussed those preparations here Monday with State Department officials.

The U.S. government wants to establish two basic committees to those talks: one that would discuss issues such as refugees, water resources and the region’s economy, and another that would discuss arms control, a State Department official said.


Israel Radio reported Tuesday that Hadass, who has been appointed head of the Israeli delegation to the multilateral talks, is trying to convince the U.S. and Soviet co-sponsors to establish more committees than that to discuss the issues in greater detail.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the State Department announced that it had granted a visa to Nabil Shaath, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s so-called parliament in exile.

The visa is good for two weeks and contains no geographic restrictions, a State Department official said Tuesday.

Spokeswoman Tutwiler said Shaath was admitted to give a speech, apparently to the Arab American Institute’s seventh annual Leadership Conference, which convenes in Washington from Jan. 16 to 19.

She said U.S. officials will refrain from talking with Shaath while he is in the capital.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the visa decision does not portend a rapprochement between the United States and the PLO.

The United States broke off direct talks with the PLO in June 1990, after it refused to condemn an aborted terrorist attack perpetrated by a PLO faction on Tel Aviv beaches.

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