BAL HARBOUR, Fla. — Secretary of State George P. Shultz today said the United States will try to restart Middle East peace talks by stressing issues but will not "stake out positions."
Shultz said the emphasis on a forum in which talks would occur has stalled efforts to bring both sides together for discussions.
"It has been, I think, somewhat sterile," Shultz said after meeting privately with the AFL-CIO executive council. "There is a need to talk more about substantive issues rather than the process."
Shultz leaves Feb. 24 on a trip to the Middle East to promote peace talks, although "we are not trying to stake out positions of any kind." His trip is expected to begin later this month.
"The big thing is to get going on it," he said.
Shultz said U.S. officials had "a tremendous and rich back and forth with our friends in Israel" about recent violent attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank region. He did not elaborate.
Shultz, who spoke to union leaders about foreign policy issues such as Central America, the Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty and drug trafficking, defended the presence of U.S. ships in the Black Sea, where two vessels were bumped by Soviet warships last week.
"The United States, as a key maritime power, has to be sure that our ships have (certain) well-known maritime rights and to be sure that that is so we assert them," he said. "We were asserting that right in the Black Sea."