After a trip to the Middle East, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said Tuesday that he senses some sort of breakthrough may be near in the peace process between Israel and neighboring Arab states.
Owens, a member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, said Jordan's King Hussein is especially optimistic that Arab leaders are close to working out their concerns about moving forward.Owens - who met with Hussein for the fifth time in five months - said he talked with the king after Hussein had just returned from a meeting with Syrian President Hafez Assad.
"Two key players on the Arab side are Syria and Jordan. And I think King Hussein is . . . very close to closure on the final issues remaining on the Arab side," Owens said. Those issues include what role the United Nations should have, and how to control political damage for Arab leaders who may talk to Israel.
"The king has a feeling that there is going to be a significant breakthrough," Owens said. "I've never seen him up like he is up now."
Owens added, "He is quite confident that Assad of Syria will join him, that they are close to closure on their side. A lot of what they do, of course, depends on what Israel may do. The picture there, of course, remains much less clear."
Owens said details of much of his conversations are confidential. But he said Hussein's main concern is ensuring that President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker are committed to seeing the peace process to conclusion through rocky roads ahead.
Owens said, "I sense something is about to happen. Whether it's in the form of calling the parties to Washington for a consultation, or calling a conference and asking whoever can attend to attend. Maybe it's in the form of a breakthrough in terms of (working out) final issues."
Owens also noted that Hussein wants to lead "a delegation of Jordanians and Palestinians" into the peace process, and be the major spokesman for both.
Owens said one of the best available solutions through the peace process may be to form a confederation between Jordan and Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip - a step somewhere between continuing Israeli rule and giving Palestinians full autonomy.
He left for the Middle East on Saturday and returned Tuesday morning. The trip was paid for by the Foreign Affairs Committee, Owens said.