Israel and Syria agree to bilateral peace talks

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The Independent Online

Israel and Syria have agreed to continue bilateral peace talks and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq Sharaa, will return to Washington on 3 January.

Israel and Syria have agreed to continue bilateral peace talks and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Syrian Foreign Minister, Farouq Sharaa, will return to Washington on 3 January.

A settlement of disputes between Israel and Syria, which is expected to include a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, is seen as a prelude to the conclusion of peace between Israel and Lebanon, so securing Israel's northern border. These would be the final pieces in the jigsaw of Middle East peace which began with the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt 20 years ago.

The new talks will be conducted under the aegis of the US, at the request, said President Bill Clinton, of both sides. After opening in Washington, they are likely to be "quarantined" at a so-far-undisclosed location in rural Virginia, away from the mass media.

Agreement by Israel and Syria to resume formal talks, which were broken off four years ago, matched US expectations of the past two days' talks. The first day had got off to a rocky start after Mr Sharaa used his speech at the opening ceremony in the White House Rose Garden to list Syria's grievances against Israel and question its good faith.

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