Peace talks may restart

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The Independent Online
AQABA, JORDAN - Warren Christopher, the United States Secretary of State, said yesterday that he hoped to announce the resumption of long-stalled Israel-Syria peace talks before he winds up a six-day visit to the Middle East.

"We're still trying to finalise a way in which we might effectively renew the discussions," he told a news conference. "I have nothing to announce at the present time but before I leave the region, after I've had further talks with the parties, I hope to be able to do so," he added.

Mr Christopher's comments implied that he would make a second visit to Damascus for talks with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad after a Saturday night meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Mr Christopher had a private dinner with Peres on Friday night.

Mr Christopher's main reason for being in the Middle East is to try to revive peace talks between Israel and Syria. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and their negotiations have centred on resolving the fate of that strategic plateau.

After a four-hour meeting with President Assad on Friday, Mr Christopher announced that he had made "substantial progress" in getting the talks back on track. US officials said that both sides were no longer imposing conditions on negotiations, a major change.

They attributed the new openness to last month's assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a key architect of recent peace efforts, whose death has imbued Mr Peres and Mr Assad with a new urgency.

From Aqaba, Mr Christopher went to Palestinian-controlled Jericho to meet PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. - Reuter