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U.S. Says No Meeting in Washington Until There’s Accord on Cairo Talks

October 12, 1989
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Unless Egypt and Israel can agree on proposals by Secretary of State James Baker to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, there will not be a meeting in Washington between Baker and the foreign ministers of Egypt and Israel, the State Department said Wednesday.

“Washington comes last,” State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler stressed.

A Washington meeting is the final item on a list of five points Baker has proposed to Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid, in an effort to get the bogged-down Middle East peace process moving again.

The meeting, first suggested when Baker met with the two foreign ministers in New York last month, is the only one of Baker’s five points that the State Department has publicly confirmed.

Tutwiler emphasized that if there is no agreement on the first four points there would be no use in having the meeting in Washington.

“We remain convinced that the best way to proceed is to focus on how best to implement the Israeli government’s peace initiative,” Tutwiler said. “To that end, we are continuing to work on developing a framework that meets each side’s respective needs.”

This framework is aimed at bringing about a dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis in order to implement Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s plan for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Baker discussed his five points in telephone conversations with Arens and Meguid over the weekend, after Israel’s Inner Cabinet rejected Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s offer to host a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians. The vote last Friday was a tie, with the six Labor ministers backing the Egyptian offer and the six Likud ministers rejecting it.

On Sunday, Baker sent his proposals in writing to the Israeli and Egyptian governments, in an effort to get talks in Cairo started.

Israel is seeking assurances from the United States that the Palestine Liberation Organization will have no role at all in the talks in Cairo.

Mubarak has suggested that he select the Palestinian delegation, which would include two Palestinians expelled by Israel from the West Bank. They would likely have strong ties to the PLO.

A State Department source denied Wednesday that Baker’s points contained any specific recommendations about the makeup of the Palestinian delegation.

Baker’s proposals would have Israel, Egypt and the United States discuss the makeup of the Palestinian delegation. Israel could refuse to attend the Cairo meeting if it objected to any of the Palestinian delegates.

The Cairo meeting would focus on Israel’s May 14 election proposal in which Palestinians would elect representatives to negotiate with Israel on self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This would eventually be followed by negotiations on the final status of the territories.

Tutwiler repeatedly stressed that Baker, in his conversations with Arens and Meguid, was trying to work out language “to meet the basic concerns of the Egyptian government and the Israeli government.”

Asked about the concerns of the Palestinians, she replied, “It is obvious that the Egyptians are talking to the Palestinians.”

In Israel, meanwhile, one of the leaders of the hard-line faction within Shamir’s Likud bloc called Wednesday night for immediate national elections, given the “yawning gap” between Likud and Labor, the two chief partners in the national unity government.


Economics and Planning Minister Yitzhak Moda’i, who heads Likud’s Liberal Party wing, issued his unequivocal call at a meeting of Likud hard-liners, led by Ministers Ariel Sharon, David Levy and himself.

The meeting was convened to exert pressure on Shamir to reject Baker’s proposal and, specifically, the concept of Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.

Earlier in the day, at a meeting of all Likud ministers in Jerusalem, Shamir pledged there would be no indirect dialogue with the PLO. He appeared to imply that the Baker proposal for consultations on the makeup of a Palestinian delegation would be tantamount to indirect talks with the PLO.

“Let’s be straightforward,” Transport Minister Moshe Katsav, a Shamir supporter, said after the ministerial meeting. “We will not countenance talks with the PLO — above the table or under the table.”

Likud sources said Foreign Minister Arens has been pressing the State Department to ensure that Israel would have the right to veto any member of the Palestinian delegation it found objectionable.

Israel’s Labor Party, however, welcomed the American proposal unconditionally and, as party leader Shimon Peres put it, any “improved formulation” that Baker might make.

The party also refused to be drawn into Moda’i’s challenge for national elections at this time. A party spokesperson said Labor’s primary concern at this time is to maintain momentum in the peace process.

(JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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