Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baker Hopes for Israeli Concession Israeli Premier Expected to Offer US a 'Yes, but on Proposed Middle East Peace Talks

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Baker Hopes for Israeli Concession Israeli Premier Expected to Offer US a 'Yes, but on Proposed Middle East Peace Talks

Article excerpt

'US Secretary of State James Baker arrives in Israel this afternoon to receive Israel's response on the peace conference. Or so he hopes."

That was how state-run Israel Radio underscored the continued uncertainty here over the government's position as Mr. Baker began a sixth visit to the region yesterday.

The high-stakes Baker visit came fresh on the heels of President Bush's statement in Moscow Wednesday that he and his Soviet hosts hoped to issue invitations to a Middle East peace conference penciled in for October. But was Bush being overly optimistic? No East Jerusalemites

The hard-line government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir still showed no sign of dropping its opposition to including residents of Arab East Jerusalem in any Palestinian negotiating team, the single largest hurdle standing in the way of peace talks.

Israel conquered and subsequently annexed the eastern sector of the city during the Six Day War in 1967. Palestinians seek to make it the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"We will not be attending any peace conference with Arab residents of East Jerusalem," reaffirmed Yossi Olmert, director of Israel's government press office, when asked if Mr. Shamir finally was prepared to say "yes" to US calls to join willing Arab states in Middle East peace talks.

Shortly before the secretary arrived, it appeared likely that Shamir would offer Baker a "yes, but response - agreeing in principle to attend a conference but with assurances from the United States that Israel would not be forced to sit down with any Palestinians it deemed unacceptable. In addition to East Jerusalem residents, Israel also seeks to exclude anyone linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinians living outside of the occupied territories, or diaspora.

Israel Radio reported that Shamir and two senior members of his government - Defense Minister Moshe Arens and Foreign Minister David Levy - were prepared to offer Baker a "compromise" on Palestinian participation. …

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