Israel/Syria Peace Talks: President Clinton Heads Back to West Virginia to Help Fix Procedural SnagAired January 4, 2000 - 1:03 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: After decades of bad blood and three major wars, it looks as though Israeli and Syrian peace negotiators don't know where to begin. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, holed up in a West Virginian resort, are stuck over which issue to tackle first: the Golan Heights or mutual security.
CNN's Walter Rodgers is following the talks. he brings us the latest -- Walt.
WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Clinton is due to return here in about an hour to try to get these peace talks off to a harmonious, something that hasn't exactly happened yet. Mr. Clinton's goal is to try to get Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak, and Syria's foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, to sit down together for a face- to-face meeting. He planned to do that last night, but at the last moment, yesterday evening, Mr. Clinton decided that perhaps the time was not yet propitious. So, the talks went on separately, the U.S. officials meeting first with the Syrians and then with the Israelis, back and forth for a period of time.
Mr. Clinton is now returning here to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and this peace summit conference to see if he can get Mr. al-Sharaa and Mr. Barak to meet together again. He's giving it a second try.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we just started, but all the issues are on the table, and it's a pretty full table, as you might imagine. We're working at it. I'm going back up, today, and I'm hopeful.
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RODGERS: If Mr. Clinton can indeed get a trilateral meeting, tonight, then the summit will have cleared its first hurdle. The snag, of course, is procedural, that is, who's pet issue is at the top of the agenda. The Syrians are insisting they came here to talk about an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights; the Syrians say that this is why they came, they did not come to discuss things like Israel's security. The Israelis, by contrast, have at the top of their agenda for these talks discussions of their security, and they want guarantees of that from the Syrians, if, indeed, they pull back from the Golan Heights.
That's where we are at this moment. It's a procedural snag. President Clinton is downplaying the import of that now. He considers it sufficiently alarming, however, such that he's due back here in about an hour -- Lou.
ALLEN: All right, thanks, Walter Rodgers. It's Natalie; that's all right. Thank you for that report.
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