Palestinians, Syrians want U.S. help in disputes with Israel
Albright asked to intervene on her trip to Middle East
December 5, 1999
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinians and Syrians urged on Sunday that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright take an active role in resolving their respective disputes with Israel when she visits the Middle East this week.
Palestinian officials on Sunday urged Albright to help stop Israel's expansion of its settlements into what they consider their land in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government appears to be constructing Jewish settlements at record rates, complicating Albright's attempt to jump-start peace talks in both Damascus and Jerusalem.
"This settlement building will eliminate all peace and, instead of peace, we will face together, Israelis and Palestinians, wave after wave of violence and terrorism," Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmad Abdel-Rahman said.
Many Palestinians are demanding that Albright become more involved.
"She has to get serious about continuation of settlement activities. Something must be done to stop this destruction," said Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat.
The heart of Syria's dispute with Israel concerns the strategic Golan Heights, captured from Syria by Israel in a 1967 war. The arch-foes started peace talks in 1991 but negotiations broke off almost four years ago because of arguments over the region's fate.
Syria asked Washington on Sunday to persuade Israel to acknowledge a pledge made by assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to withdraw from the Golan Heights.
Syria's official press and radio called on Albright, slated to leave for the Middle East Sunday, to find the key to the deadlocked talks before the U.S. administration becomes embroiled in its presidential election campaign next year.
"Albright knows that Syria has never been the problem, and it never will be," the state-owned Thawra newspaper said on its front page. "Albright's only problem is not any Arab country but it is Israel, and now especially Barak who is refusing to honor what previous governments have concluded."
U.S. officials have been playing down expectations for Albright's visit, her second to Syria since September. She is due in Damascus on Tuesday and will travel to Israel later that day.
Despite the calls for U.S. intervention in these issues, some Middle East analysts believe the Clinton administration's ability to exert influence has grown less powerful in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the president's subsequent impeachment.
"Sitting over here, it seems they don't realize the power they have lost and they don't realize how little power they have over events," said political analyst Gerald Steinber.
"They are lame ducks," said Steinber. "It's not clear Vice President Gore will be taking over, and they don't have much bargaining power or pressure."
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