Ambassador Robert Strauss, President Carter's special negotiator for the Palestinian autonomy talks between Egypt and Israeli, received cool but polite welcomes today on his first visits to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The two monarchies have been openly skeptical of the chances of success of the Camp David peace effort, and the limited success Strauss brought here from this Week's talks in Alexandria, Egypt, did not appear to lessen theat skepticism.
Egypt and Israel, committed to negotiating for full autonomy for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, accepted Strauss' proposal Friday to put aside broad political disputes and set up committees to work out practical arrangements for elections of self-governing Palestinian councils within the next year.
Traveling aboard a U.S. Air Force jetliner, Strauss arrived in Amman in midmorning from Alexandria and immediately went into a 90-minute meeting with King Hussein. Neither would make substantive comment after the meeting, but other sources said it had been devoted largely to the Jordanian monarch's continuing complaints about the Carter administration's having "abandoned" the search for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement in favor of backing a bilateral treaty between Israel and Egypt.
Hussein "asked for nothing, and I asked for nothing" in the talk, Strauss said afterward. "He volunteered nothing, and I volunteered nothing."
Strauss said they had agreed that Hussein would receive more firsthand brifings from American negotiators as the autonomy talks proceed.
While the two men were meeting, Strauss' wife visited a Palestinian refugee camp on the Outskirts of Amman at the invitation of Jordan's Queen Noor, the American-born Lisa Halaby. U.S. officials said that to their knowledge it was the first time that such a trip had been made by the wife of a senior official of the executive branch. No senior official has visited the Palestinian camps, they said.
Jordanian newspaper and television reporters accompanied the queen, and watched as the leader of the Palestinian camp delivered an appeal to Mrs. Strauss for U.S. help in regaining Palestinian rights in Israel and on the West Bank.
Strauss arrived in Riyadh just before dusk and was welcomed by a lowranking membe rof the royal court. There was also a sharply worded editorial in a Riyadh newspaper.
Written by Fuad Farsi, until recently an assistant deputy minister of information, the editorial said that Strauss had been selected to handle the Middle East negotiations in part because "the president wants to get the votes of the American Jews because of their big role in the (1980) elections and their great interest in Zionism."
The editorial went on to praise Strauss as being "a strong negotiator" who "would undoubtedly attack the problem in a completely new way." If Carter is determined to pressure Israel and make peace, "any negotiator would be successful, even if President Carter sent Amy," it said.
Strauss was due to meet Crown Prince Fahd shorlty after arriving, but was told at the airport that the Prince had been delayed in returning from a trip to the desert. No meeting was set with King Khalid.
An effort by the U.S. Embassy to set up international telephone and telex lines for reporters traveling with Strauss was rebuffed by the royal court's protocol section without explanation.