Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres indicated yesterday that he will accept King Hussein's demand that peace talks between Israel and Jordan take place under "international auspices" including the Soviet Union -- but only if Moscow first reopens diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
However, Peres told a news conference at the end of his three-day visit here that he does not think that the Soviet Union is ready to renew the ties it broke off after the 1967 Middle East war. Referring to Hussein's call for an international conference including the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Peres said he would prefer that these countries endorse direct negotiations between Israel and Jordan.
Only three of the five permanent council members -- United States, France and Britain -- have relations with Israel. The Soviet Union and China do not recognize the Jewish state. Israel and the United States have opposed Hussein's plan because of concern that Moscow would use an international conference to extend its influence in the Middle East and possibly sabotage chances for successful negotations.
"The permanent members of the Security Council should establish diplomatic relations with Israel and attend the conference or, without participating, they should internationally declare themselves in favor of direct negotiations," Peres said in outlining his views on how to break the impasse caused by Hussein's insistence on an international framework.
U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said that Peres hopes that a more flexible and conciliatory Israeli approach to the international conference problem might help to coax Hussein away from his agreement with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat to seek a role for the PLO in peace talks.
In a talk yesterday to the American Enterprise Institute, Peres reiterated Israel's commitment to "solve [the Palestinian problem] in an honorable manner." But he cited the PLO's alleged involvement in last week's hijacking of an Italian cruise ship as proof that the PLO "is incapable to disengage itself from its very militant policies" and thus has ruled itself out of the peace process.
Hussein, citing the Arab League's 1974 action designating the PLO as the sole legitimate spokesman of the Palestinian people, contends that the Arab states will not support any peace talks that exclude the PLO. As a result, it seemed doubtful that he will regard the concession offered by Peres on the international conference as sufficient inducement to move away from the PLO.
At a meeting yesterday with editors and reporters of The Washington Post, Peres said he expects to spell out his ideas about how to break the impasse on Monday when he addresses a special 40th anniversary meeting of the United Nations. While stressing that he would prefer a limited Soviet role, he also said:
"It [an international conference] is not a good idea on the merits of the case. But it may be as an incentive for Hussein to come forward."
Asserting that the PLO is "not a factor for peace," Peres added, "I feel that message has reached the king. The king is now facing a choice . . . to go on with the process of peace or retreat completely. I believe he will decide to go forward, without the PLO."
While the question of Israeli relations with the Soviet Union remained in doubt, Israeli officials in Jerusalem revealed that Poland, which followed Moscow's lead in breaking relations in 1967, is about to restore limited ties with the Jewish state. According to the sources, the two countries will not have full ambassador-level relations, but will establish "interest sections" in Warsaw and Jerusalem.
Since 1967, Romania has been the only East European communist state to have relations with Israel. However, Romania frequently has taken an independent course from Moscow in its foreign policies.