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Special Event

Millennium 2000: New Round of Peace Talks Between Syria and Israel Opens in West Virginia

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

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

BOBBIE BATTISTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hard on the heels of the new year is a new round of peace talks between Israel and Syria. The setting is a conference center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia on the far outskirts of Washington. Our correspondent is John King.

John, what's going on?

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bobbie, the U.S. administration hoping that the setting here, about 75 miles outside of Washington, will provide fewer distractions, allow the Israeli and the Syrian delegations to begin to discuss their very many substantive disagreements. President Clinton came up to Shepherdstown this morning to help open the talks. He took a walk with the leaders of the two delegations, the Israeli prime minister and the Syrian foreign minister.

You see the leaders taking a walk across a bridge here, a very scenic area in West Virginia. After this walk, the president met first with the Israeli leader then with the Syrian foreign minister. A three-way meeting scheduled for tonight. U.S. officials saying they're not looking for any major breakthroughs here, but they do hope for some substantive discussion of the issues that have divided Israel and Syria for 50 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We do not expect to be able to achieve a core agreement in one round of negotiations. What we are hoping to achieve is to have an opportunity to discuss all of the outstanding issues, all the issues that have not been discussed, face to face with experts in all the areas, for four long years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One of the major disputes, Syria wants Israel to give up the Golan Heights. Israel seized that territory in the 1968 War. Syria wants Israel to give it back, and give it back along with the 1967 border. Israel would prefer a slightly different border that would give it access to some of the desperately needed water resources in the Middle East.

In any event, these discussions opening today. They will run at least through the end of the week. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be in on all of the discussions. President Clinton will be on hand today and will be available to return here to Shepherdstown if the parties think his input is necessary to broker any disputes.

John King, CNN, reporting live from Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

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