Syria demands return of all occupied lands
Thursday 16 December 1999
In the first such meeting between Syria and Israel at such a high level, Mr al-Sharaa was speaking at the White House before beginning talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak. While setting a sober tone, the Foreign Minister said the Middle East was approaching a "moment of truth".
The stakes are also high for US President Bill Clinton, who is attempting to forge a legacy of fostering international peace, notably in the Middle East and in Northern Ireland. A settlement between Syria and Israel, ending more than half a century of aggression between them, would be a monumental prize.
Mr Clinton said as he stood between Mr Barak and Mr al-Sharaa in the White House rose garden: "What we are witnessing today is not yet peace and getting there will require bold thinking and hard choices.
"But today is a big step along that path. For the first time in history there is a chance for a comprehensive peace between Israel and Syria."
The two days of talks are not expected to produce any final agreements. It is more likely that they will kick off a longer process of negotiating that may take weeks or months. Joe Lockhart, President Clinton's spokesman, said: "I don't know that we can completely predict how that will play out."
At the heart will be Syria's demand for the return of the strategically important Golan Heights, seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.
Mr Barak said that Israel was ready "to do whatever it takes" to reach a peace with Syria and "bring about the dreams of children and mothers" in the whole region. Before departing for Washington, Mr Barak warned Israelis to be ready for a "painful" outcome from the talks.
The Golan plateau is home to about 17,000 Jews who would have to leave before a handover.
In Washington, there were no affectations of great friendship on the lawn and no handshakes between the two sides for photographers.
"It goes without saying," Mr al-Sharaa said, "that peace for Syria means the return of all its occupied land, while for Israel, peace will mean the end of the psychological fear which the Israelis have been living in as a result of the existence of occupation."
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...
£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...