Despite Saudi Arabia's heightened stature in the Persian Gulf war, the Arabs negotiating with Israel are likely to be limited to "front-line" states and the Palestinians, Secretary of State James Baker said Saturday.
In the meantime, the U.S. diplomatic drive to set up negotiations appeared to be faltering. Baker left Israel Saturday without an agreement on either a framework or on Palestinian participation.And then in Aqaba, the Red Sea redoubt of King Hussein, he apparently was unable to persuade the Jordanian monarch to give his unqualified support to negotiations to end the 43-year Arab-Israeli conflict.
Baker left Jerusalem declining to specify the procedural issues that have slowed his attempt to set up negotiations. U.S. officials said only that they involved the format and who would represent the Palestinians.
Foreign ministers of the European Community asked Baker in Luxemburg on Thursday for a role as a co-sponsor along with the Soviet Union. All Arab leaders Baker talked to last week in the Middle East proposed an international setting such as holding the talks under U.N. auspices.
Baker flew here Saturday evening and met with Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid. He was to hold more extensive talks Sunday with President Hosni Mubarak and the foreign minister. They agreed in principle last week to Arab-Israeli negotiations.
Since his return to the region Thursday, Baker has had his hands full fashioning an accord. After meeting with Mubarak, Baker is to fly to Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks with King Fahd and with Prince Saud, the Saudi foreign minister.