Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres became the first Israeli cabinet minister to cross the border into Jordan on 20 July. The minister was met by Jordanian officials as well as US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, on the third leg of his Middle East shuttle tour, which began in Israel and Syria.
Peres’ crossing to Jordan preceded the first public meeting between King Hussain of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 25 July in Washington. It followed peace talks between the two neighbouring countries on the border, in which the two sides outlined a programme of future discussions (see Jordan).
The US has been trying to push ahead talks between Tel Aviv and Amman; attempts at breaking the deadlock between Israel and Syria have so far failed. The US has hinted that it may offer Jordan debt relief, but Amman’s recent burst of activity appears to have been initially spurred by fears of being left out of the peace process after the Palestinians accepted the self-rule agreement and Syria appeared to be making progress on a return of the Golan.
Syria has reaffirmed its commitment, with the US, to reaching peace with Israel. Asad told the US secretary of state that he was looking forward to making progress on the Syrian and Lebanese track of the peace talks, according to Joubran Kourieh, the Syrian president’s spokesman, who spoke to Reuters on 20 July.
However, the government daily Syria Times accused Israel on 19 July of torpedoeing the peace process. On the same day, Rabin said Christopher was not carrying any message to break the impasse over the Golan Heights. So far, Israel has offered a phased withdrawal from the strategic plateau in return for full peace, which has been rejected by Syria.
Palestinian negotiators began on 18 July a second round of talks on widening the powers of the Palestine National Authority (PNA). But the Palestinian team claim the Israelis are obstructing the progress of the talks which cover the handover of five civilian areas of local government. These include education, health, tourism, direct taxes and social affairs.
‘We need real authority,’ the PNA’s head of planning and international co-operation, Nabil Shaath, said on 20 July. ‘It is a fact that early empowerment is a problem because there will be two authorities….We will have some authorities and the Israelis will have others so there are a lot of interconnections and we don’t want an emaciated authority.’ Shaath also condemned Israel’s draft law to curb the political activity of the PLO and the PNA in East Jerusalem.