ROME — Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Wednesday dismissed the idea of an international conference aimed at achieving peace in the Middle East and proposed direct Israeli talks with King Hussein of Jordan as the best approach.
"We oppose the international conference," Peres said in a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. "We are not looking for a show; we are looking for dialogue."
Offering for the first time as prime minister to go to Jordan for direct talks with Hussein, Peres said: "I am ready to go to Amman. I am sure Israelis would like to see it if King Hussein would come to Jerusalem and announce whatever he has in mind."
Letter From Arafat
Craxi, who also supported the idea of direct talks instead of a large international conference that would include the Soviet Union, said he showed Peres a letter he received recently from Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. Craxi and Arafat met in Tunisia in December.
Although Craxi said the letter spelled out at least some of the recent Hussein-Arafat agreement on a negotiating strategy in future peace talks, he added that it did not advance matters enough to form a basis for fresh negotiations. He said a framework for direct talks "is something that has not been acquired, as things stand now."
Commenting on his talks with Craxi, Peres stressed that the Arab-Israeli conflict remains highly complicated and will not be resolved "by slogans."
Similar Offer by Begin
Although the Israeli prime minister has often suggested that Hussein come to Jerusalem for direct talks, it was the first time that he has expressed a willingness to go to Amman to meet the king. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin made a similar offer before his retirement in 1983, without results.
"If someone is interested in peace, why not take the first step--sit and talk?" Peres asked as he concluded a three-day visit to Rome.