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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Israel, Syria Meet for Peace Talks

Aired January 3, 2000 - 7:07 a.m. ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: There is some hard bargaining ahead as Israel and Syria head into a new round of peace talks today in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. President Clinton will be the mediator, at least in today's meetings.

Our senior White House correspondent, John King.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's team sees this week's talks between Syria and Israel as historic, but still just early steps in a process likely to take several months.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: There have never been talks at this level before, but I think we also know that they are very difficult issues, fateful issues, for both leaders, and that some very hard decisions are going to be made.

KING: The push for peace that began at the White House last month shifts now to a secluded conference center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

GEOFFREY KEMP, THE NIXON CENTER: Shepherdstown is about the substance, about the nitty-gritty, the issues that will make or break the peace between Israel and Syria.

KING: Prime Minister Ehud Barak leads the Israeli delegation. Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa heads Syria's negotiating team. Their goal is a framework for peace that includes an Israeli commitment to withdraw from Golan Heights territory seized from Syria in the 1967 war, a Syrian promise to allow Israel access to desperately needed drinking water, and a green light from Syria for Lebanon to seek a peace agreement with Israel as well.

SAMUEL BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don't expect this will be completed in one round, but I think the parties are here seriously, they're bringing experts with them, and I hope we can make some progress.

KING: The president will be on hand to open the negotiations, and be available throughout the week to help broker any disputes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Now, a peace agreement would end some 50 years of hostility between Israel and Syria, and give Mr. Clinton a major achievement in his final year in office -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, thank you. John King, reporting live this morning.

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