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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Israel and Syria Enter New Millennium Discussing Peace

Aired January 2, 2000 - 3:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

RIZ KHAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bitter enemies for more than 50 years, Israel and Syria enter the new millennium discussing peace. They begin a second round of talks on Monday in Shepardstown, West Virginia, about an hour and a half outside Washington.

CNN's Charles Bierbauer is joining us from the State Department with details on that -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Riz, any discussion of peace in the Middle East immediately turns to the question of territory, land for peace. In the case of the Syrian-Israeli talks, that means the Golan Heights, that bluff of land which until the 1967 War was a Syrian launching pad overlooking Israeli lands below. So the question, in simplified terms, is a matter of borders, the inevitable question, and the issue Israeli Prime Minister Barak says it is too early to resolve.

The simple question is to what line does Israel withdraw to obtain security? A security guarantee is part of the core agreement the Israelis would like to reach in these talks. Barak says security and normalization of relations are the immediate issues. Syria and Israel are still technically at war, and have been for decades. More specifically, water rights is a key issue, as almost everywhere in the Middle East. At the foot of the Golan Heights, the sea of Galiea (ph) flows into the Jordan River, and that's an important water source to which Syria would like to regain access.

The Syrians and Israelis won't be locked up alone in Shepardstown to sort these matters out. The U.S. is the third party in the talks, U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'll be there the full time. The president is deeply involved in this and will be coming at regular intervals. But I don't think we put a real time frame on it, and we see this as difficult talks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: Indeed President Clinton will be in Shepardstown Monday, and almost everyone sees these as difficult talks. But if successful, they would lead to an agreement between Israel and neighboring Lebanon as well since Syria controls Lebanon's policy, and that, after more than half a century of war, would complete the circle of bringing peace to Israel's borders.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, Live from the State Department.

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