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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Expectations High for Israeli-Syrian Talks

Aired January 3, 2000 - 5:04 a.m. ET

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

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: For more perspective on the peace talks, CNN's Jerrold Kessel joins us now live from Jerusalem.

Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Colleen, expectations here and in the Middle East generally are certainly very high. The state- sponsored newspaper al-Thawra in Damascus has spoke of the Syrian delegations going into these talks with an open heart and with a very truthful desire to come up with a just and comprehensive peace.

And although Madeleine Albright -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke of there being no completed agreement, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the mass circulation paper, referred to a quote, it's the lead headline this morning, saying 80 percent of a deal concluded, quoting an unnamed U.S. official.

Well, that really is a big question of just how much of this business is concluded with both sides going into this critical round of talks saying it would be a test of just how serious the other side was about getting down to business. No one here expects this to be a matter of ceremonial hoopla, exactly the opposite, about rolling up of sleeves and getting down to business.

And there are, as Walter Rogers was pointing out, several issues on the agenda, five in all. The question of the future of the Golan Heights, the borders. The question of just how there will be normalization of peace between the two countries. The issue of security considerations. Water. And the timetable between the two. And the key will be, which will come first in the agenda, the Syrians looking to wrap up the issue of the Golan's future, the Israelis wanting to focus on security considerations and on normalization of ties.

Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Jerrold, thanks.

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