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December 27, 1985 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-27

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Friday, December 27, 1985




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gafez Assad

Continued from Page 1

leader to announce a readiness to
open direct negotiations with Is-
But still, Washington has lately
become increasingly more sensi-
tive to Syria. Secretary of State
George Shultz, for example, told a
press conference on Dec. 6 that his
chief Middle East adviser, Assis-
tant Secretary Richard Murphy,
had "some very interesting and
worthwhile discussions in Syria.
And Syria is obviously a country
of key importance, and so we keep
in touch with Syria."
Shultz, in response to another
question, expressed hope that
Syria "can be among those Arab
countries which already have
come around" to accept the notion
of eventually opening direct
negotiations with Israel. The Sec-
retary said Jordan has accepted
that concept.
Asked about the most recent
rapprochement between Syria
and Jordan, the Secretary replied
that he was "puzzled" by it. He
agreed that "stability in the reg-
ion" was important, but added: "I
don't feel that I have a good, full
understanding of all of the factors
involved" in the improved
Jordan-Syrian relationship. Any
easing of the tensions between the
two countries, he added, has many
A few days earlier, the State
Department had restated Ameri-
ca's long-standing view that the
territorial withdrawal provisions
of UN Security Council Resolu-
tion 242 also apply to the Golan
Heights which Israel formally
annexed in 1981. The Americans
have never accepted Israel's
Golan action.
The State Department's state-
ment, coming on the heels of Mur-
phy's talks with Assad in Damas-
cus, was seen as part of a continu-
ing campaign to elicit a more re-
ceptive Syrian attitude toward
the U.S.-sponsored peace process.
Unfortunately, however, the
peace process does ThDt appear to
be going anywhere — at least for
the time being. Murphy returned
to Washington from a two-week
swing through the Middle East
without any significant progress
in setting the stage for direct
Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The two major problems stand-
ing in the way of such talks re-
main unresolved. There has been
little headway made in finding
credible, non-PLO. Palestinians to
participate in a joint Jordanian-
Palestinian delegation, and there
is still confusion surrounding the
exact nature of any international
umbrella under which the negoti-
ations would take place.
The Soviet Union is still not
seen in Washington as prepared
to play a more constructive role,
despite the less hostile super-
power rhetoric that has resulted
from the Reagan-Gorbachev
summit last month in Geneva. In
short, the situation remains
murky and gloomy.
But U.S. officials insist that the
peace process is still alive even if
it shows very little life. Shultz,
trying to put America's best face
forward, said, "There has been
some very considerable progress."
But privately, the Americans are
pessimistic. They had hoped to

meet the end-of-this-year "target
date" for opening such negotia-
Lately, they have even sensed
an erosion in the position of King
Hussein who is depicted as want-
ing a much more serious and full-
scale international conference
than was once hinted. The king's
latest moves toward Damascus,
moreover, may herald a toughen-
ing of the Jordanian stance.
The Wall Street Journal noted
the other day that the latest oil
surplus has created some real
economic problems for Jordan.
"Economic conditions in Jordan
are deteriorating, and hard times
in the oil-producing Persian Gulf
states mean that Jordanian
workers are being sent home,

The Syrians do not
believe Israel will
withdraw from the
Golan Heights until
Syria achieves
military parity.

raising Jordan's unemployment
rate and robbing it of the remit-
tances these workers once sent
home," it said.
"King Hussein, understanding
that these conditions could pro-
duce domestic unrest, is edging
closer to Syria," the newspaper, in
a report by diplomatic correspon-
dent Robert Greenberger, con-
tinued. "Both nations share a con-
cern about Islamic extremism,
and King Hussein also wants to
ensure that Syria's President
Assad doesn't exploit any tensions
in Jordan. Such a move represents
a fundamental realignment in the
Middle East. Syria has little in-
terest in King Hussein's peace
plan, at least until Damascus has
achieved military parity with Is-
rael, and Mr. Assad despises King
Hussein's peace partner, Yassir
Arafat, who heads the PLO."

The newspaper said Hussein
"appears to be positioning himself
for a lengthy stalemate by moving
closer to Syria, his most danger-
ous neighbor."
But the Americans believe that
Hussein's positions are still fluid.
They are convinced that he is sin-
cere in accepting the concept of
direct negotiations with Israel.
They are impressed by his public
and private declarations. They
also know of his secret channels to
Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
This helps to explain why
Shultz has become so fond of Hus-
sein and why the Reagan Ad-
ministration, as a whole, was so
prepared to try to push a major
new weapons package for Jordan.
Strong opposition by Israel's
friends in Congress has temporar-
ily stopped that package, al-
though President Ronald Reagan
has pledged to revive it by March
But in the meantime, U.S. offi-
cials concede, Hussein has been
politically humiliated by the
withdrawal of the arms sale.
That, they said, could also be seen

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