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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 6, 1994 V2, #218

Muslims and Jews Meet in Budapest

Foreign Ministers from Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco met Monday in Budapest. The meeting, under the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, is a major step in a long process of establishing a Mediterranean security body similar to the CSCE. The new organization, an initiative of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, would be known as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East.

Christopher's Shuttle Lands in Damascus

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher landed in Damascus today for another peace shuttle aimed at speeding up the Israeli-Syrian negotiations. But both sides are playing down the possibility of a breakthrough.

For the past week, Syrian newspapers have been lashing out at Israel, blaming leaders there of putting obstacles in the way of progress in the peace negotiations. One day before Christopher visited Damascus, the official media still pointed the finger at Israel.

Last week, President Hafez al-Assad told reporters he would rather keep things as they are than yield to what he called Israel's impossible conditions.

Syria insists on a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a condition for peace. Israel first wants a Syrian commitment to normalized relations. Negotiations have been at an impasse for more than eight months despite half a dozen visits by the Secretary of State.

After President Bill Clinton's unprecedented visit to Syria in October, US officials hinted that some progress was made to narrow the gap. But Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says he does not expect a breakthrough during this trip.

Christopher meets Syrian leaders today, then heads to Jerusalem to confer with Israeli officials, and is expected to return to Damascus on Thursday.

The issue of long-term security on the strategic Golan Heights is also under consideration, amid some suggestions that US peacekeepers could be stationed there. It is a likely topic of discussion during the current visit to Israel of the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Palestinians and Jordan have now made peace deals with Israel under the umbrella of the three-year-old US-Russian sponsored peace process. But all agree that Syria still holds the key to a comprehensive peace in the region.

World Bank Cries Out for a Clean Mideast

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

The World Bank has told a meeting of Arab League environment ministers it is ready to double its lending to $1 billion a year for environmental projects aimed at dealing with urgent issues like water scarcity and industrial pollution. World Bank Vice President for the Middle East Caio Koch-Weser presented the World Bank report.

Koch-Weser sounds the environmental alarm for the Middle East and North Africa and warns that urgent action must be taken now before it is too late. "We are at the point of crisis in this region. When you have one in every four people in the Arab World lacking access to safe water -- 60 million people, when you have one in every five living in cities with unacceptable levels of air pollution -- 45 million people, we are talking about a looming water and air pollution crisis."

Koch-Weser called on the Arab League to expand national and regional environment strategies to deal with the problems now. He says the bank is ready to boost lending to $3 billion during the next three years for projects in the areas of water, energy, transport, agriculture and pollution control. He says donor states and regional funds are also ready to help. Koch-Weser says prospects of peace in the region make it easier to consider cross-border programs.

"Take the Jordan River basin for example. If all the countries of that basin -- Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian authorities cooperate, they can come to a lasting solution that can manage the scarce water resources of that basin most prudently."

The World Bank estimates that efforts to save the region's environment will cost as much as $85 billion over the next decade. The bank warns that if governments do not spend the money now, it will cost more later in terms of money and lives.

Mediterranean Countries Seek New Security Framework

On Sept. 25, 1994, Yaacov Fisher, 16, was stabbed in the back and the neck by a young Arab from Khan Yunis who crawled under the fence at Neve Dekelim in Gush Katif. "According to Palestinian sources, a few days earlier the attacker had told his friends that he was going to attack a Jew in order to reach heaven as a holy martyr." Israeli soldiers who were nearby shot and killed the attacker. One year after the Arafat-Rabin agreement, thousands of Arabs in Gaza still believe that the quickest way to heaven is to find a Jew to kill.

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