The United States said yesterday it is considering the "possibility" of talking to a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, but U.S. officials emphasized that members of the Palestine Liberation Organization could not be in the group because of the PLO's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist.
The idea of a joint delegation that might negotiate with Israel over the status of Israeli-occupied Arab territory stems from the Feb. 11 agreement between Jordan's King Hussein and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. They want the United States to pressure Israel to deal with a joint group.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, arguing that the Hussein-Arafat accord implies PLO recognition of Israel, implored President Reagan last week to give the plan U.S. backing. The admininistration has refused to make a commitment, however, and Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Friday that Richard W. Murphy, assistant secretary for Mideast affairs, will visit the region soon to explore various ideas for getting the peace process moving.
In a television interview Sunday, Shultz said that Murphy will investigate, among other options, whether "it isn't possible" to construct an acceptable delegation including Palestinian representation. But he emphasized that it would have to be within the framework of existing policy that says the United States will not deal with the PLO until it accepts Israel's right to exist.
That was reiterated yesterday by State Department spokesman Ed Djerejian, who said: "We are looking into the possibility of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to be involved in the peace process, in moving the peace process forward, which in our view at the end of the day means direct negotiations, direct talks, between the Arabs and the Israelis."
Djerejian also repeated that PLO members could not be part of the delegation. During past attempts to get Jordan involved in peace talks, the United States has held out the possibility of Palestinians being represented on the Jordanian negotiating team, and Israel also has indicated that it would "not look too closely" into whether such Palestinians had been approved by the PLO.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Foreign Minister Taher Masri, who is here for talks, called for a positive U.S. response to the Feb. 11 agreement between Hussein and Arafat. In a talk to the American Enterprise Institute, Masri argued that the agreement "solves important issues and removes hurdles the United States and others thought stand in the way of the achievement of a peaceful settlement."
"The significance of the accord lies in the fact that it commits the PLO publicly, for the first time, to the acceptance of the principle of 'territory for peace' as defined in Security Council resolutions," he said. "This is tantamount to the acceptance of the PLO to Resolution 242 as the basis for settlement."
Resolution 242 stipulates that all states in the Middle East have the right to exist in peace and security within recognized boundaries. Its acceptance by the PLO would be tantamount to recognizing Israel, and although the Feb. 11 accord does not specifically mention 242, Masri contended that if the United States responds positively to the Arabs' overture, the PLO's implicit recognition of 242 eventually will be made explicit.
Masri also said the Feb. 11 accord eliminates Israeli and U.S. objections to the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He said that Hussein might visit the United States, but added that decisions about the king coming here would depend on "the kind of response that is made to the Arab proposal and whether there is something positive to talk about."