Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat, in an apparent sign of willingness to improve PLO relations with Egypt, has called for an Egyptian-Palestinian-Arab meeting to adopt a unified stand on how to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue.
In an interview with the weekly magazine Al Masawar, his first since the late president Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem five years ago, Arafat said, "The solution is a joint Egyptian-Palestinian-Arab stand. We should sit down and discuss it to adopt a position on the issue of Israeli settlements, and the issue of creating a new fait accompli in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I am ready to contribute to holding this meeting and making it successful."
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Boutros Ghali welcomed Arafat's suggestion with reservations.
"We favor any movement on their part, and we are open to suggestions," he said in an interview. Pointing out a potential stumbling block, however, he indicated that Egypt insists on PLO recognition of Israel as a step for laying the groundwork for possible participation in expanded peace talks on the basis of President Reagan's Middle East peace plan.
"Any movement has to take into consideration certain prerequisites, including the recognition of Israel, so that the PLO can start a dialogue with the United States," Ghali said.
Another possible difficulty in PLO-Egyptian relations is an apparent difference between the Palestinian and Egyptian views on the form of Palestinian representation in any future peace talks.
Arafat expressed his preference for a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation in which the Palestinian members would be appointed by the PLO. He said that he had asked King Hussein of Jordan to propose Palestinian participation within the framework of a unified Arab delegation.
Ghali, however, said that Egypt has suggested other alternatives including Palestinian participation through the Egyptian delegation or the formation of a Palestinian consultative committee to issue directives to the Egyptian and Jordanian delegations. Palestinians involved in the talks would have to receive a mandate from the PLO, he said.