There is movement, at least, in President Reagan's acceptance of a U.S. role in Central American peace negotiations that would include the Sandinista rulers of Nicaragua. It is an appropriate first response to the Sandinistas' decision last Friday to ask Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, archbishop of Managua, to mediate a cease-fire with the Contras.
Both Washington and Managua are holding back on the crucial steps needed to accelerate the peace process. The United States has no good reason to refuse direct bilateral talks with Nicaragua; the visit to Washington this week of President Daniel Ortega offers an opportunity for just such an exploration. Nicaragua has no good reason to restrict its talks with the Contras to indirect negotiations limited to a cease-fire.
The governments of Guatemala and El Salvador are engaged in open-ended negotiations with guerrilla movements within their nations on political as well as cease-fire issues. Indeed, it is difficult if not impossible to separate one from the other.
President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica, principal architect of the the Aug. 7 peace agreement, hailed President Reagan's response as "a positive step for which I feel very content as it is one step closer to attaining peace." Arias is a realist and has seemed to expect progress only step by step. He nevertheless looked ahead to the next step: "Now it is easier to see a bilateral dialogue between Washington and Managua."