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Shultz Will Go to Mideast to Press Efforts for Peace

February 12, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz is going to the Middle East, the State Department announced today, to make a weeklong effort to promote negotiations between Israel and Jordan on Palestinian self-rule.

The brief announcement said Shultz would make the trip at the end of the month "for the purpose of advancing the Middle East peace process."

Other U.S. officials said he would leave about 24 hours after returning from Feb. 21-23 talks in Moscow and visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt and possibly Saudi Arabia. He is to remain in the area until he joins President Reagan for a summit meeting with West European leaders in Brussels beginning March 2.

The visit is designed to show a commitment to aiding the 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs who live on the West Bank and in Gaza and to ending violence in the Israeli-held territories.

The officials, who demanded anonymity, said Shultz's overriding goal was to promote negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, possibly in the framework of a Mideast peace conference.

They stressed that the framework was incidental to holding direct talks on the Palestinian issue and that all approaches to getting the two sides to the table would be considered.

The peace conference idea has drawn objections from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, but has the support of Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, and possibly King Hussein.

On his last visit to the region last October, Shultz said he understood why Shamir would be reluctant to hold negotiations in a way that gave the Soviet Union a chance to play an influential role.

The Soviets generally side with the Arabs in their dispute with Israel and do not have diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy returned from the Middle East on Thursday and reported to Shultz on his meetings with leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, as well as with British and French officials.

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