Clinton agrees to meet Assad
Announcing the move, and the resumption of peace talks between Syria and Israel in Washington in January, the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, said in Damascus that the aim was to promote the Middle East peace process. He said the summit would 'help to put in place a vital cornerstone in our efforts to build a comprehensive, just and lasting peace'.
The initiative was welcomed in Israel, where a spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said after discussions with Mr Christopher: 'We can only be pleased with such a meeting to push forward the peace process.'
Syria has vested interests in improving relations with the US, following the collapse of its former Soviet superpower backer. It is under US economic sanctions, having been branded a sponsor of terrorism, and has tried to mend fences by relaxing restrictions on the exodus of its tiny remaining Jewish population, and by offering help in finding Israeli soldiers missing in action in Lebanon.
In terms of the peace talks, the cautious Mr Assad is prepared to wait to see how the Palestinian-Israeli accord unfolds - or unravels. Syria has offered Israel peace in exchange for withdrawal from the Golan, occupied in 1967.
Meanwhile, Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, has raised hopes that Israel and the Palestinians might be able to adhere to their timetable and start implementing their accord on Palestinian self-rule on Monday.
'The date of 13 December should be the beginning of the implementation of the accord over a four-month period,' Mr Peres told a news conference after talks with the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat.
'We hope to be able to begin on time and I am sure we will be able to meet the four-month deadline (in April),' Mr Peres said.
Mr Peres has often confused wishful thinking with reality. But it was his vision and resilience in the face of many setbacks which led to the signing of the accord in the first place.
Yesterday's meeting was his first with Mr Arafat since the historic signing ceremony in Washington on 13 September. They met in Granada, the former Moorish capital of Andalucia.
It was an apt venue. Last year, Muslims and Jews shared a common quincentenary - of their final expulsion from newly ascendant Catholic Spain.
Mr Arafat's chief political adviser said yesterday that the PLO chairman and the Israeli Prime Minister would meet in Cairo on Sunday to try to remove obstacles delaying the handover. In Jerusalem, Mr Rabin's spokesman said: 'There is no decision yet.'
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, police said they had arrested two Jewish settlers suspected of killing a Palestinian farmer while he wastilling his land. One of the suspects was aged 16.
- 1 Astrological signs are almost all wrong, as movement of moon and sun throws out zodiac
- 2 Dad eats daughter's weed brownies, thinks he's had a stroke
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 5 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
Amanda Knox murder conviction: Italian court overturns verdict for US student and Raffaele Sollecito in the killing of Meredith Kercher
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
The battle for the Middle East's future begins in Yemen as Saudi Arabia jumps into the abyss
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...