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CNN Today

Israel-Syria Peace Talks: Day One Procedural Snag Overcome

Aired January 4, 2000 - 2:11 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: President Clinton, all the while, is returning to Shepherdstown, West Virginia today, site of the Israeli- Syrian peace talks. Those talks snagged early on over what to talk about and when.

Let's check in with CNN's Walter Rodgers in West Virginia -- Walter.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Natalie.

President Clinton is, indeed, back in Shepherdstown, West Virginia to try to accomplish what he failed to do yesterday, that is to get Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak, and Syria's foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara, to sit down and to talk to each other.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said yesterday's procedural snag has been overcome, and the Syrians have told CNN, by the way, that the compromise now exists whereby both sides, Israelis and Syrians, will get to talk about their pet issues at the same time. The Syrians will get to talk at the summit about the Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and a discussion of the return to 1967 borders, Israel's favorite issue, number one issue, is of course Israeli security as a result of that troop pullback. All issues will be talked about simultaneously, nobody has a corner on the agenda -- nobody has a corner on the agenda here.

Now before leaving the White House, President Clinton was asked about reports in the Israeli news media that Prime Minister Barak has asked for $17 billion -- $17-20 billion in additional military aid from the U.S. Some of that would include a shopping list for weapons that not even U.S. NATO allies now have access to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there will be some costs associated with the -- with the security rearrangements and then obviously over the long run, as I have made clear, we need to make a contribution as do our friends in Europe and hopefully some in Asia to the long-term economic development of a regional Middle East economy. So there will be some costs involved there over a period of years, not just in one year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RODGERS: The resolution of procedural issues is only a starting point at the -- in these talks, and State Department spokesman James Rubin said the negotiations have to be seen in a certain perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It's -- you shouldn't read disaster or success, you shouldn't read great expectations or bleak house into every arrival or departure of the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RODGERS: The real measure of success here, of course, will be when the Israelis and the Syrians sit down at a meeting at a table hosted by President Clinton, and after a rocky start yesterday, they appear to be now moving in that direction -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, thank you, Walter.

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