Secretary of State George P. Shultz tentatively plans to visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel beginning Feb. 25 to push American proposals for reactivating the Middle East peace process, U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said yesterday.
Officially, State Department spokesmen said Shultz would decide about the trip after he conferred with Richard W. Murphy, assistant secretary for Mideast affairs, who returned here yesterday from consultations in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel.
However, the sources said, Shultz already has concluded that the violence sweeping the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip leaves the United States no choice except to make a new try at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. A hastily assembled new administration peace talks initiative has encountered reservations from both sides, and the sources said Shultz feels that only his personal, on-scene involvement will convince Arab and Israeli leaders of a high-priority U.S. commitment to help resolve the problems.
Shultz will be in Europe Feb. 19-23 on a trip that will include talks in Moscow with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. The sources said tentative plans call for Shultz to return here Feb. 23, then leave Feb. 25, first to go to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and then to Jordan to confer with King Hussein. He would be in Israel Feb. 28-29 to meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Israeli coalition government leaders.
The secretary also will accompany President Reagan to the NATO summit in Brussels March 2 and 3, perhaps joining him in Brussels rather than returning here first.
The new U.S. proposals are similar to the Palestinian autonomy plan of the 1978 Camp David accords. But instead of the Camp David five-year autonomy period for the occupied territories, the new U.S. plan calls for accelerating the process and moving quickly to a brief international conference to start direct Arab-Israeli talks on the final status of the occupied territories and a Jordan-Israel peace accord.
The sources said Hussein insists on Dec. 15 as the "date certain" for talks to start on a final settlement. But Shamir has insisted that agreement on an autonomy plan must come before final settlement talks can start.
Hussein also wants prior agreement by both sides that final settlement talks will be conducted according to President Reagan's 1982 formula of "trading territory for peace." This would mean the eventual return of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Arab control in return for Arab recognition of Israel and guarantees of its security.
Shultz, in an off-the-record talk Tuesday night to the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed with that concept.
However, Shamir is pressing the United States to take no position before the talks and insists negotiations be conducted without specifying any preconditions about their outcome.