Efforts by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy to stir the dormant joint Jordanian-Palestinian peace initiative during two days of talks in Amman have produced no change in the deadlock preventing direct negotiations with Israel, Israeli officials said tonight.
Following meetings with Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that lasted three hours, Murphy made no substantive comment to reporters, saying only that he was "pursuing the most intimate and intense discussions" with Israeli leaders.
A Foreign Ministry official who was present at Murphy's meeting with Shamir said that "the impression that Murphy got in Amman was that the position of Jordan has not changed; Jordan still advocates an international conference and participation of the PLO," or Palestine Liberation Organization.
A U.S. official, who asked that his name not be published, said Murphy did not meet any Palestinians in Amman and would not meet any before leaving for Cairo on Friday, The Associated Press reported. "I would guess he won't meet the joint delegation on this trip," the official said.
Both Israel and the United States oppose an international conference, which likely would involve the Soviet Union. Israel has flatly refused to negotiate with the PLO, while the Reagan administration has said it will not talk with the PLO unless it recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces terrorism and unless such talks would lead to direct negotiations with Israel.
While in Amman on the first leg of his Middle East swing, Murphy met with King Hussein and top government officials and reportedly made it clear to them that the U.S. position remains that there should be direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan and no dialogue between the United States and the PLO until the PLO recognizes U.N. resolutions that imply the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
But following Murphy's talks with Peres and Shamir today, Israeli officials said there was still "no readiness by Jordan to have direct talks with us. The only way to proceed is if King Hussein talks to us directly and without prior conditions."
The U.S. official indicated to the AP that Murphy would meet the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation if he were assured the contact would lead to direct Arab-Israeli talks. But the official said Hussein had not given such an assurance.
Shortly before Murphy's arrival, senior Israeli government officials briefing foreign correspondents here said that Peres does not object to the U.S. envoy's meeting separately with Palestinian leaders either here or in Amman as long as they are not members of the PLO and as long as such meetings do not represent a dialogue between the United States and the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that excludes Israel.
Talks between Murphy and PLO members on the list of joint delegation nominees would only strengthen the PLO and be interpreted by its chairman, Yasser Arafat, as de facto U.S. recognition, a senior Israeli official said.
Israeli officials argued that any movement toward peace negotiations until now was accomplished as a result of the weakening of the PLO, and that to strengthen Arafat's hand now would be a "futile gesture" and would set back the chances for direct negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.