WASHINGTON — ...C WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III returns to the Middle East this week to try to maintain the momentum for a peace conference leading to direct Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian talks.
President Bush and Mr. Baker "are convinced that all parties are taking a serious approach to peace in the Middle East," State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said yesterday.
While Arabs and Israelis have endorsed the idea of a peace conference that would include the United States and the Soviet Union, perhaps as co-sponsors, neither details of the conference nor the crucial issue of who would represent Palestinians has been worked out.
Mr. Baker is to arrive in Israel Thursday and will go from there to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and possibly Jordan. On the way, he is to meet in Luxembourg tomorrow with European Community leaders.
A visit to Jordan would end the diplomatic freeze imposed on King Hussein for his support of Iraq in the Persian Gulf war.
Jordan is seen as a vital link in getting Palestinians to the conference who are acceptable to Israel. Israel refuses to meet with the Palestine Liberation Organization and is also blocking Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem.
Mr. Baker sent Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh, who is in Japan with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, a written report of his most recent trip.