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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Feb. 9, 1996 V4, #25
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Syria: We are the Key to Peace

By Edward Yeranian (VOA-Beirut)

Following a visit with Lebanese President Elias Hrawi in Beirut Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Chareh said the US must establish normal relations with Syria before global peace can be achieved in the Middle East.

Al-Chareh's declaration was Syria's first official reaction following the conclusion of Secretary of State Warren Christopher's latest trip to the Middle East. Speaking to journalists after a two-hour meeting with Lebanon's president, al-Chareh declared emphatically global peace is an impossible task without Syria.

Syria remains on the State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism, and its economic ties with Washington are nearly non-existent. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Toni Verstandig met with Syrian officials earlier this week to discuss the renewal of economic links between Washington and Damascus.

The Syrian foreign minister also repeated with some insistence the Syrian and Lebanese -- and the peace process with Israel are inseparable. Syria, which has 35,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, exerts considerable influence over its smaller neighbor.

Peres Favors May 28 Election

Prime Minister Shimon Peres has decided to hold early elections for the 14th Knesset on May 28, Ha'Aretz reports. According to the newspaper, the Prime Minister has already told both a group of Labor cabinet ministers and Secretary of State Warren Christopher of his preferred date for elections. Peres added that he would make an official announcement regarding the date of elections next Thursday.

Absorption Committee Decides on Ethiopian Jewish Action

The ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption, headed by Prime Minister Shimon Peres, convened Wednesday to discuss the absorption of Ethiopian Jews. The committee decided to establish five Ethiopian Jewish synagogues in cities with large Ethiopian populations. Ethiopian rabbis and religious leaders -- known as Keisim -- are to be included on local religious councils.

In the sphere of health care, the Health Ministry will add Ethiopians to professional teams formulating health plans for Ethiopian Jews. In addition, the Absorption Ministry will reform financial aid plans for Ethiopian university students. The Education Ministry will also allocate a special budget to identify students with learning difficulties.

The Turkish Aspect
Commentary by Ze'ev Schiff, "Ha'aretz"

Turkey is monitoring, with suspicion, negotiations being conducted between Israel and Syria. They fear that the results of these negotiations -- and primarily, what is perhaps being cooked-up behind the scenes -- are likely to have a negative impact on Turkey. There are a number of serious issues between Turkey and Syria, from terrorism to the water question.

What are the Turks telling us? It is inconceivable that your discussions with Syria on terrorism should concentrate only on Palestinian groups like Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, whose leaders have found refuge in Damascus. The entire terrorism issue -- including terror's many other regional aspects -- should be addressed in such negotiations...

It is also doubtful whether we have paid attention to another matter troubling the Turks -- the deployment of the Syrian military in the future. IDF representatives have told their Syrian negotiating partners that, within the framework of the security arrangements, they will have to deploy their army far from their border with Israel. In one instance, they were told that, if Syria positions some of its armored divisions near its borders with Turkey or Iraq, Israel's demand for a permanent, ground-based early warning station on Mt. Hermon will be assessed differently.

Turkish generals are asking whether they should conclude from Israel's position that, in order to make it easier for ourselves, we are calling on Syria to deploy its divisions under their nose, where they will pressure Turkey. Ankara obviously has no reason to be concerned about the Syrian army; Turkey's military strength is far greater, but it fears the problems that might result from Syrian military support for Kurdish terrorist groups infiltrating into Turkish territory.

Turkish representatives have reacted by saying... that we (and others) would do better to stop thinking about getting water from Turkey while simultaneously ignoring its vital security interests.

The message to Israel is that we cannot speak in lofty terms of peace with Syria, leading to a regional settlement, by only looking south to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. It would be better to look north as well, in the direction of Turkey. Israel should have a strong interest in ensuring that Turkey not be harmed, even indirectly, by any agreement with Syria -- and in Turkey's interests being guaranteed in any future accord with Damascus.

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