U.S. warns Arabs, Israelis to compromise

February 18, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- As Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher embarked on his first overseas mission yesterday, the United States warned Arab and Israeli leaders that continued high-level U.S. involvement in the peace process depended on their willingness to compromise.

"He is going to be listening very, very carefully to what he hears from . . . the Arabs, Israelis, the Palestinians -- as to how serious they are in promoting meaningful negotiations that can move this peace process forward, and meaningful engagement on the part of the parties to narrow their differences," a senior official told reporters.

Based on Mr. Christopher's assessment of their seriousness, the official added, "the president will decide what I could call the quality of engagement by the United States in the actual negotiations."

Another official said that a key question was whether Mr. Christopher would allow much of his time in the months ahead to be consumed by the peace process or whether he would pursue other world problems and assign the Middle East to subordinates.

Mr. Christopher was to leave late last night for Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel Switzerland and Belgium on a trip aimed mainly at reinvigorating the peace process.

The senior official's remarks reflected frustration with continued obstacles to progress in negotiations, which stalled last summer and then halted altogether in December following Israel's deportation of 415 Palestinians.

A U.S.-Israeli agreement allowing 100 to return immediately and setting a procedure to return all within a year failed to persuade Arabs to rejoin the talks, even after the deal got a qualified endorsement Friday from the United Nations.

"We realize that the deportee issue has complicated matters, but it is time to move beyond this," the official said.

The fact that the Middle East is Mr. Christopher's first foreign destination signals that the peace process is an important priority and that the United States is prepared to be "a full partner, if the parties also demonstrate serious commitment to making peace," the official said.

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