Israel-Syria peace talks to resume in West Virginia
January 5, 2000
From staff and wire reports
SHEPHERDSTOWN, West Virginia (CNN) -- Peace negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara are set to resume Wednesday morning.
President Clinton brought the two longtime enemies together in an effort to push the peace process forward. The United States hopes the meetings will allow the two sides to work out a framework agreement for a peace deal.
Clinton described Tuesday's meeting with the two leaders as "very productive" and said both sides agreed to get down to serious work.
Clinton met with Barak before being joined by al-Shara. The president left Shepherdstown, a remote West Virginia town along the Potomac River about 70 miles from Washington, D.C., by motorcade late Tuesday afternoon.
Water and border issues were on the agenda, but details from the discussions were not immediately disclosed. On Monday night, a scheduled face-to-face meeting between Barak and al-Shara had failed to materialize because the two sides disagreed over which issue would be discussed first.
The Syrians pressed Israel to take up the issue of withdrawal from the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured from Syria during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel pressed for other issues, including security, to be discussed before withdrawal.
Rubin: Hurdle overcome
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters, "The procedural hurdle that emerged yesterday has been overcome and we are proceeding apace."
The Syrians say they are seeking an Israeli acknowledgment of its commitment to withdraw to the 1967 border of the Golan Heights.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Cabinet minister Haim Ramon said the two sides had agreed to discuss an agenda, then security, organization, borders, and then water.
"We insist that's what's going to be," he said, adding there is a "clear linkage" between the issues. "I hope Syria will understand that this is not a negotiation where they are getting land and they are not giving anything in return."
Development on land transfer
In another development, Israel and the Palestinians broke a deadlock on the transfer of West Bank land Tuesday.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat said the two sides had greed on a transfer of 5 percent of the West Bank now and another 6.1 percent on January 20.
Israel and Syria, after 50 years of conflict, had disagreed over how to begin to talk peace, with Barak insisting on security discussions and Sharaa seeking to put the focus on withdrawal from the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967.
Price of peace
The United States may be willing to put up billions of dollars to secure the peace.
"I think there will be some cost associated with the security rearrangements," Clinton said. "And then obviously, over the long run ... we need to make a contribution, as do our friends in Europe and hopefully some in Asia, to the long-term development of the regional Middle East economy."
Press reports in Israeli newspapers cited $17 billion as the figure Israel was seeking to agree to withdraw from the Golan. Clinton administration officials would neither confirm nor deny the $17 billion figure but also would not name another figure. The money is said to be for military assistance the Israelis want to ensure their security after leaving the Golan.
Correspondent Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.
Three-way Mideast talks cancelled; meetings resume Tuesday
Ministry of Information Syrian Arab Republic
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