The United States yesterday demanded more proof that Israel and its Arab neighbors want lasting peace. In a brief statement before the United Nations General Assembly, US Ambassador Vernon Walters told the world body that ``movement toward peace starts with movement by the parties.''
He also vowed to vote against a UN resolution expected to be approved this week calling for an international peace conference on the Middle East. US officials worry that such a conference might be used as a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties.
The statements squelched hopes that a major breakthrough in the Middle East peace process might arise in Geneva.
The US is under growing pressure to acknowledge recent actions by Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat - which appear to soften the group's stance on Israel. Mr. Walters' statements make it clear that the US isn't ready to do that yet.
At the same time, however, Walters underscored Washington's growing impatience with Israel. He repeated an earlier call for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories and recognize the need to ``accommodate legitimate Palestinian political rights.''
Walters called on all nations to put pressure on the parties to the dispute. ``We must tell them that we are tired of this conflict and tired of their unwillingness to make fair compromises.''
Walters also asked Palestinians to shape their demands in such a way as to ``accommodate the reality of Israel's existence and security needs,'' while committing themselves to direct negotiations with the Israelis.
The UN is expected to vote on a set of resolutions concerning the Palestine issue today.