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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Nov. 1, 1995, V3, #198
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Israel will Receive Gas from Qatar
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Amman)
Israel and Qatar Enron Gas Company have signed a memo of intent to
provide natural gas to Israel. The sales deal still needs to be
finalized, but the deal marks the first contract between a Gulf
state and Israel, two countries not officially at peace.
The Ministers of Energy from Qatar and Israel signed a memo of
understanding on the margins of the Economic Conference here in
Amman. Once a deal is finalized the Qatari gas company will supply
about $5.5 billion worth of natural gas to Israel.
The operation would not start before the year 2001. The final
contract would await a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.
Qatar's delegation has been one of the more active participants
here at the economic conference. Qatar seems more interested in
pursuing the economic benefits of the Middle East peace process
than getting mired in some of the political sparing about past
This marks the first direct deal between Israel and an Arab Gulf
state not officially at peace with it. Qatar and neighboring
Oman have both spearheaded efforts to explore trade opportunities
with the Jewish state in preparation for normalized relations in
a peacetime Middle East.
Does Syria Really Want a Peace Treaty?
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
When the Israel-Jordan peace treaty was signed a year ago, there
was much talk of holding a similar ceremony for an Israel-Syria
treaty. And in fact, the Israel-Syria talks intensified for a
while and seemed to make some progress -- Israeli leaders strongly
hinted they would give up all of the Golan Heights and Syria's
foreign minister made conciliatory statements in an appearance on
But as the year went on, it became clear that neither side was
satisfied with what the other was willing to say. Syria wanted
withdrawal to a line Israel would not accept. And Israel wanted
Syria to stop supporting militant Palestinian groups, which it
apparently was not willing to do. Then, Israel accused Syria of
reneging on a promise to upgrade the talks to the level of military
chiefs of staff. Since then, repeated US efforts to get the talks
going again have failed.
Of course, each side blames the other. Syria says Israel is
refusing to budge on several key issues, such as the form of
monitoring and early-warning systems on a new border, but Israel
says those issues should be negotiated, and in high-level talks.
Yigal Palmor is a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry. "They
are saying that before Israeli and Syrian representatives meet,
Israel must give up certain issues which were supposed to be raised
and debated. So, it means they are not even willing to debate,
let alone to accept, some things which to us seem vital."
Palmor says "everything is paralyzed" in the Israel-Syria talks,
partly because Syria refuses to raise the level of the negotiators.
But there are also indications of a possible slowdown on the
Israeli side. There have been news reports that Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin wants to keep the Syria talks on hold for
a few months so as not to anger any members of his fragile
coalition, with a key vote coming up in the Israeli parliament.
In addition, many Israeli leaders believe they will not be able
to make the difficult concessions necessary for peace if the
negotiations drag on into Israel's election campaign, which begins
But Palmor of the Foreign Ministry says Rabin would be willing to
move forward at any time if he had an active counterpart in the
"If Assad announced tomorrow that he is willing to meet Mr. Rabin
either in Damascus or in Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv or in Washington,
the meeting would be welcomed immediately by the Israeli
government. So, there is no question of trying to put Assad on
hold, it's just that this is exactly what the Syrians are doing and
we are simply a little tired of asking them to negotiate the way
negotiations are being held with other countries."
Speaking on Tuesday, Rabin said he did not have high hopes in the
wake of the latest Christopher-Assad meeting. And he added to the
already bitter long-distance rhetoric flowing from Damascus and
Jerusalem, when he told a parliamentary committee that Syria has
become a center of terrorism the likes of which there has never
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said the Damascus meeting might have
created the possibility of resuming the talks by reaching agreement
on some procedures involved. But he said he was not sure, and
that even if procedural details are settled there has been no
substantive progress and there is no clear path which would lead
Secretary Christopher himself only said the meeting was a "useful
review" -- a phrase analysts took to mean no progress had been
made. The gauge of Israel-Syria peace prospects rises and falls
regularly. But this time Israeli, and even American, officials
are not shying away from statements which seem to indicate a
very deep low indeed, with few apparent prospects for a sharp rise
any time soon.
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