Israel Sticks to Demands Before Baker Visit
ISRAEL said yesterday that United States Secretary of State James Baker III would return this week to try to break a deadlock over who should represent Palestinians at US-brokered Arab-Israeli peace talks.But the Jewish state, which has hinted it would attend the talks, said it would not reply formally to Washington until assured that no Palestinians from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem nor Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) members would take part. Foreign Minister David Levy said Mr. Baker would return to Israel this week on his sixth Middle East peace mission since the end of the Gulf War. Baker would arrive from the superpower summit in Moscow where US and Soviet leaders are expected to discuss Middle East peace efforts, although they are not likely to issue invitations to a peace conference. President Bush had hoped to receive an Israeli response before the summit, but Israel said it would not reply without clarifications on the makeup of a Palestinian delegation. "We have asked some questions and we are waiting for answers, especially on the Palestinian delegation. We need to have this clarification before we can give our answer on Israel's participation," said Avi Pazner, spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Mr. Pazner said Israel would not change its stance and put the burden on the Palestinians to show flexibility. Baker won Arab approval this month for proposals paving the way for direct talks between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Gulf States. But it is still unclear how he will bridge a gap between Israel and the Palestinians, who insist no talks can take place without delegates from Jerusalem and approved by the PLO. Israel refuses to negotiate with the PLO, which it regards as a terrorist group.