Delegates initial accord setting 'agenda' for treaty


September 15, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Israel and Jordan took a long stride toward reconciliation yesterday, formally agreeing to a framework for talks leading to a full-fledged peace treaty.

Coming swiftly after Israel's pact with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the accord added to the momentum building toward a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It also marks the first solid gains in talks between Israel and one of its neighboring Arab states since the current Middle East peace process was launched in Madrid 22 months ago.

Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher called the framework "a long step down the road toward peace."

The "common agenda" outlines the principles for negotiations over security, occupied Jordanian territory, water-sharing and the future of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled to Jordan in 1948 and 1967.

Jordan, anxious to avoid any appearance of forging a separate peace with Israel that leaves other Arab states behind, has played down its significance.

Ambassador to Washington Fayez Tarawneh stressed that Jordan will act "in coordination with our Arab partners in the peace process" and said of relations with Israel: "We don't want to rush things. We have to negotiate and agree on all the roots of the conflict that we have in order to reach to a comprehensive peace."

King Hussein was angered over being cut out of the fast-paced, secret talks between Israel and the PLO that led to Monday's agreement.

Every symbol yesterday was muted: Whereas the Israel-PLO accord was signed by foreign ministers on the White House South Lawn with a president and prime minister looking on, the Jordanian agenda received the initials of negotiators in a State Department reception room with Mr. Christopher presiding.

But the agenda shows that a broad understanding already has been reached on long-term security goals and ways to avoid immediate tensions.

It points toward agreements on avoiding terrorism or any threat to each other's security, as well as a mutual commitment not to attack each other either with conventional weapons or those of mass destruction.

A Jordanian spokeswoman, Rania Atalla, said the agenda "lists issues to be discussed by taking into account the position of both sides."

But Israeli negotiator Eliyakim Rubinstein was more expansive, saying: "Obviously [it] is more than a list of items to be negotiated. It details and summarizes the principles which will guide us in the coming negotiations."

Much of the agenda was complete several months ago. But Jordan, sensitive to its 50 percent Palestinian population, avoided publicizing it until an accord had been reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the meantime, negotiators have been pursuing it in three informal working groups on water and the environment; borders and security; and environment and refugees.

Jordan long has been the least hostile of Israel's neighbors, apart from Egypt, and Israel is anxious to preserve the stability of King Hussein's rule.

But the two countries have serious problems that need to be resolved, particularly water and refugees. Among the most urgent, Ms. Atalla said, is the future of 90,000 refugees who possess Israeli documents but have not been allowed back into the occupied territories.

Jordan also claims two pieces of Israeli-occupied territory: a strategically important site where the Jordan and the Yarmuk Rivers meet and 160 square miles below the Dead Sea.

In the negotiations, Israel has pushed for normalization, highlighting areas where the two countries should cooperate, such as on new ways to ease their water shortage. Jordan wants to establish its rights to territory and water resources and its refugees' rights to return to Palestinian land.

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