Secretary of State James Baker abruptly ended his Middle East peace mission Friday when he received word that his mother had died. After more than a week of shuttle diplomacy, Baker seemed to be making some headway in efforts to arrange peace talks between Arabs and Israelis.
"We got some answers but there are some questions for which we have no answers," Baker told reporters after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.In Washington, President Bush said Baker has made progress toward a Middle East peace process. "Though problems remain, I think the bottom line is there is some reason for optimism. There are still some sticky problems, but we're not going to give up. We're going to continue to try to bring peace to that troubled corner of the world," Bush said.
Baker and Shamir decided to continue the talks at a later date, but set no specific time. "This, of course is not the end of his mission," said Azi Pazner, an aide to Shamir.
Israeli sources said Baker agreed that the Palestine Liberation Organization would not participate in the peace talks.
The Israeli government also told Baker it was prepared to discuss a number of regional issues with the Arabs, including the economic development of the Middle East, water resources, and possibly the control of arms deliveries to the area.
Baker's mother, Bonner Means Baker, 96, was pronounced dead on arrival at Houston's Methodist Hospital early this morning. She apparently suffered a heart attack, said a hospital spokeswoman, Michelle Smith.
Baker had planned to see Defense Minister Moshe Ahrens and a group of Palestinians before flying home Friday.