US urged to press for Syria accord

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ISRAEL appealed yesterday to the United States to devote more time to seeking agreement between Israel and Syria which it felt could be reached within months, writes Charles Richards.

The appeal was made by Yossi Beilin, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister and one of the architects of Israel's peace policy, as he arrived in London after voting in the Knesset to ratify the Israel- PLO agreements.

The Israel-PLO accord was reached through secret negotiations held in Oslo. But Mr Beilin was doubtful that the same formula would work with Damascus. 'There is no chance of an Oslo channel with Syria. The Secretary of State (Warren Christopher) is coming to the Middle East at the beginning of next week. This is very important. Differences with Syria can be bridged in several months.'

On his last mission to the region, Mr Christopher had given the Syrians a detailed plan of what Israel understood by a peace settlement. In response, the Syrians had for the first time provided a detailed reply.

He tempered his prognosis of a possible early resolution with Syria by acknowledging the Israelis had misread the Syrians in the past. 'We don't know the Syrians. Their policy is a big enigma,' he said.