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Central Americans Agree to Resume Contadora Peace Talks

January 16, 1986|MARJORIE MILLER | Times Staff Writer

GUATEMALA CITY — The foreign ministers of five Central American countries have agreed to resume the Contadora peace process, which had been suspended until May.

Meanwhile, Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo, beginning his first full day in office Wednesday, offered to play host to a summit meeting of Central American heads of state after the inauguration of a new Costa Rican president in May.

Cerezo also proposed forming a Central American parliament that would be a permanent forum for resolving political and economic differences between countries in the region.

The initiatives toward peace negotiations came as President Reagan was expected to begin pushing for at least $30 million in military aid to rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The United States already provides non-lethal aid to the rebels, known as contras .

Revival of Process

The foreign ministers of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica late Tuesday approved an initiative sponsored by eight Latin American countries in the Contadora Group and the so-called Contadora support group.

The initiative calls for a resumption of peace negotiations, a halt in foreign aid to "irregular forces" and "insurrectional movements" in the region and for the United States to resume direct negotiations with Nicaragua.

"The problem is that the United States and Contadora are going in diametrically opposed directions," a Western diplomat here said, adding that the new push for the Latins' peace process "is going to make it difficult for the Yanks."

The Contadora Group, made up of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Mexico, has been trying to negotiate peace in Central America since the members first met on the Panamanian island of Contadora in January, 1983. The support group, formed last year, is made up of Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

The two groups met in Venezuela last week and issued the call for the resumption of a regional peace process because "of the increasing threats to peace in Central America (and) the risk that a diplomatic vacuum will be produced that increases tensions in the region."

In December, Nicaragua and Costa Rica requested that the Contadora talks be suspended until May, when new presidents will be in place in Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

No Substantive Compromise

But while Nicaragua and the other Central American countries have now agreed to renew talks, there was no sign of movement on issues that have prevented an accord for the last three years. Nicaragua insists that the United States must agree to stop supporting the contras before Nicaragua will sign a regional peace agreement; the United States refuses to negotiate directly with Nicaragua.

The Contadora Group appealed to the United States last year to resume direct talks with Nicaragua, but the Reagan Administration charged that the Sandinistas would use such talks to evade their responsibility to Contadora. The Administration regularly declares its support for the Contadora process, but has made it clear that the contras are its first priority.

The Contadora Group has agreed on 21 principles for a peace agreement, including non-intervention and self-determination for each country, the withdrawal of foreign military advisers and bases from the region, a reduction of arms stockpiles, the end of military support for armed insurgencies, and democratic pluralism and free elections in each country.

The United States and Nicaragua have chosen to emphasize different points. Nicaragua has said that an end to the rebel aid and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Honduras is most important, while the United States says the commitment to pluralism is the key and that the Nicaraguans must negotiate to bring the contras back into a democratic process in their country.

In an interview Wednesday, Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte said, "For me, the problem is that Nicaragua has created destabilization in the region as a sort of vanguard, because they have become the center of operations for the export of revolution which has threatened the national security of the United States."

Regional Issues

At the same time, Duarte expressed support for the new Guatemalan president's proposed Central American parliament because, he said, it would help define the problems as regional issues.

A parliament, Duarte went on, "would give us more regional independence, more direct decisions and more direct influence." He added that election of representatives in each country would force Nicaragua to hold its own round of voting.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he supports a regional parliament, although he reiterated the view that U.S. support for the contras is the dividing issue. Ortega said it is too early to discuss the mechanics of how representatives would be to a parliament would be selected.

Cerezo, a 43-year-old Christian Democrat, was inaugurated Tuesday, ending 16 years of direct military rule in Guatemala, and he immediately began trying to assert himself as a leader in the region. Like his military predecessors, Cerezo has vowed not to follow the U.S. policy of trying to isolate Nicaragua.

Host of Leaders

Ortega, Duarte, Honduran President-elect Jose Azcona Hoyo, U.S. Vice President George Bush and a host of Latin American officials attended the inauguration. President Luis Monge of Costa Rica did not come to Guatemala, apparently because of domestic political problems.

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