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>PD October 25, 1994 V2,#195

Clinton About to Leave for Middle East

By Deborah Tate (Cleveland)

President Clinton, on the eve of his trip to the Middle East, cautioned Americans not to expect any breakthrough in peace talks between Israel and Syria during his visit. But Clinton, speaking in Cleveland, says he remains optimistic about the peace process.

His trip comes in the wake of a bomb blast in Tel Aviv that killed 22 people, and the abduction and killing of an Israeli soldier. Palestinian extremists have claimed responsibility for both incidents. Clinton said the parties to the peace process should not be deterred by the violence.

"If the people of Israel could keep their courage up, and the people of the Middle East could keep their courage up, and we won't be intimidated by these terrorists and enemies of peace, I think we'll get there in a reasonable time."

American Goals for Middle East Peace

By Ron Pemstein (State Department)

As President Clinton leaves for his first trip to the Middle East as president, Secretary of State Warren Christopher has laid out American goals for the Middle East in a speech to students at Washington's Georgetown University. Christopher calls for more intensive negotiations involving Israel and Syria and a cutoff of funding for Middle East terrorists.

Clinton will be the first American president to visit syria in 20 years as part of his Middle East trip that begins today. Christopher has made six trips to Syria this year since Clinton met President Hafez al-Assad last January in Geneva.

The secretary of state told his Georgetown University audience he has succeeded in narrowing differences between Israel and Syria but important gaps on a peace settlement remain. Christopher says a bolder approach is needed. "In my view, the time is fast approaching when some very difficult decisions must be made. If these talks are to succeed, if they are to produce the peace of the brave of which President Assad speaks, then the deliberate pace of the current negotiations must give way to a broader approach."

Christopher says the requirements for a real peace are clear to all, an agreed upon Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, full diplomatic relations, borders that facilitate movement of people and goods and a commitment for Israel and Syria never to threaten each other again. The secretary of state repeats the president's commitment to have the United States participate, if requested, in security arrangements negotiated between Israel and Syria.

In other words, American troops patrolling the Golan Heights much as American troops monitor the Sinai area that Israel returned to Egypt as part of the Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty.

The secretary of state says terrorism remains the main threat to Middle East peace. Christopher says Arab countries must go beyond condemning terrorism, they have to stop funding groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah.

"But condemnation alone is not enough. A real penalty must be imposed. We must join together to turn off all foreign sources of funding for terrorism, both private sources and public sources. Front organizations based abroad that are linked to terrorism must be shut down. And the perpetrators and organizers of terror must be punished. That is the course we are urging upon governments in the Middle East and around the world. And that is the course we will pursue here at home."

The secretary of state says the Clinton Administration will seek legislation where necessary to make sure Hamas and other terrorists will not get support from inside the United States. He blames Iran and Iraq as what he calls the most dangerous actors and supporters of Middle East terrorism. Iran is the most significant state sponsor, Christopher says and arms sales and preferential economic treatment for Iran should be terminated.

How Does Israel See Jordanian Peace?

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israel is hoping President Clinton's visit to the Middle East is more than just ceremonial, and really results in some new progress in the Middle East peace process -- particularly with Syria.

The president's trip started out as mainly ceremonial, with the Israel-Jordan peace treaty as the centerpiece and congratulatory visits to the two countries. There was also a visit to US troops in Kuwait, but that was not directly related to the Middle East peace process.

Now Clinton has added stops in Cairo and Damascus, leading to hopes in Israel that the visit will really result in some progress on two key issues -- terrorism and peace with Syria. The president will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Clinton will likely seek more help from Mubarak, as well as his suggestions on both terrorism and Syria.

Clinton will have a chance to personally press Arafat to work harder to reduce terrorism. But in such a meeting, the president will also hear a long list of complaints from Arafat regarding Israel's behavior, particularly the current closure of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Arafat says the closure hurts his autonomous area economically and creates more support for his radical opponents, who carry out terrorist attacks such as last week's bus bombing in Tel Aviv.

But by far the most eagerly awaited of President Clinton's stops, from Israel's perspective, will be his meeting with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in Damascus, at the end of which Clinton will fly to Jerusalem. The Israeli press is speculating that Clinton will try to convince the Syrian leader to meet with Israel's prime minister. Israel wants such a meeting, believing it is necessary to move talks forward, to build some mutual confidence, and to begin to build support among Israelis for territorial concessions.

Israel also wants Clinton to press Assad to reduce his support for terrorism. A reduction in terrorism is another key factor in generating support among Israelis for making peace with Syria and for expanding Palestinian autonomy. Analysts believe one of Syria's main motivations in the peace process is to improve relations with the United states, and there would be no better way to do that than to take some visible steps to stop supporting and start discouraging terrorism.

Israeli officials know getting Assad to move on either peace or terrorism will not be easy. But they also know it was the Clinton-Assad meeting in Geneva in January which resulted in the Syrian leader's public declaration that he would pursue peace with Israel. The process launched then, through US mediators, appears to be stalled over the issue of territory. Israeli officials say a creative solution is needed, but Assad has rejected the rent-back solution used in the treaty with Jordan. Now, Israel hopes another Clinton-Assad meeting will break the impasse and move the process forward. If not, some officials worry, it could remain stalled for some time to come.

Syria Readies Clinton Welcome

By Laurie Kassman (Damascus)

Syria's official media is welcoming President Bill Clinton's scheduled visit on Thursday as a needed push for the peace process. It is the first US presidential visit to Damascus in 20 years. Syria is one of seven nations listed by the US State Department as a terrorist sponsoring government. But Syria holds the key to a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Syria's media is hailing Clinton's visit as proof of the country's crucial role in the search for a comprehensive peace in the region. The state-run daily Tishreen says Syria is ready to make all international efforts for peace based on restoring all usurped land and rights.

But the official newspaper of the ruling Baath Party warns that full peace requires Israeli withdrawal from all the Golan Heights and from its self-declared security zone in southern Lebanon.

Israel seized the nearly 1,200 square miles of the Golan Heights in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and drove out some 30,000 Syrian villagers. Israel later annexed the area in 1981.

Now Syria wants it all back. Israel wants Syria to agree to a full peace and normalized relations. The state-run newspaper Al-Thawra has blamed Israel for in its words maneuvering and procrastinating to undermine the US peace initiative.

Syrian/Israeli peace talks have been stalled since February, just one month after President Clinton and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad first met in Geneva. At that time Assad talked about the prospects of normal peace relations with Israel but five US diplomatic shuttles have not produced the long-awaited breakthrough. The talks have remained deadlocked on the question of withdrawal from the Golan Heights and security arrangements in the border area. Clinton's trip is aimed at pushing the talks forward.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is also looking for a positive sign from the Clinton-Assad meeting. Movement on the Syrian track will help Lebanon's negotiations too. Lebanon wants Israel to withdraw troops it has stationed for more than a decade in its self-declared security zone in southern Lebanon.

Syria is the key power broker in Lebanon. Progress in the Lebanese track is linked to Syria's peace negotiations.

Assad has always insisted on a comprehensive peace based on the UN principle of land-for-peace. Jordan's decision to sign a separate peace treaty now with Israel has annoyed Damascus. Assad has criticized Jordan's decision to lease back to Israel a disputed border area which the peace treaty returns to Jordanian sovereignty.

The state-run Tishreen newspaper warns that Israel cannot get away with replacing the land-for-peace principle with one of peace-for-peace only.

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