Report Syria Was Prepared to Engage in Peace Talks Several Weeks Ago

Syria was prepared to participate in the Geneva conference several weeks ago, reports “Le Monde” correspondent Eric Rouleau from Damascus today. Syrian President Assad has also drawn up a plan for the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, Rouleau disclosed. According to Rouleau, a Syrian delegation to the Geneva conference had been named and was to be headed by Syria’s Ambassador in Ankara, Salah Tarazi. His opening speech had been prepared, added Rouleau. He also writes that Hafez Assad has worked out a five-point Israeli-Syrian military disengagement plan which he summarizes as following:

The separation of armies must be tied to the final aim of total evacuation of the territories occupied since 1967; disengagement must not be an end in itself; withdrawal of Israeli forces from the “pocket” they acquired in the October war and installation of Syrian units there; and the number of Syrian units to be determined jointly by both parties.

In addition, Rouleau wrote, the Syrian plan also called for: a 14-kilometer pullback of Israeli troops in the Golan to the heights that range the Israeli border, thus giving Israel a 4-kilometer wide strip of territory there; installation of UN forces in the liberated part of the Golan which is to be a demilitarized zone and under the civil administration of the Republic of Syria; resettlement in the Golan region of the 15-20,000 inhabitants who fled during the October hostilities; and Syria’s release of its list of Israeli prisoners of war and its participation at the Geneva peace conference.

It could not be immediately determined if these proposals were those referred to by U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger when he returned to Israel on Jan. 20 from Damascus and told Israeli leaders that he had brought with him “concrete suggestions” from Damascus regarding possible steps for Syrian-Israeli disengagement talks.

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