WASHINGTON (Aug. 25)
Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel Halim Khadam ended three days of talks with American officials here yesterday after being told by President Ford that the U.S. was determined to strengthen relations with Syria and after Ford raised the possibility of American aid for Syria. However, although Khadam concluded his visit with an unscheduled one-hour meeting with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger yesterday there was no communique issued as there was at the end of the recent visits of Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy and King Hussein of Jordan.
Kissinger had said earlier that there had been no intention of issuing a communique and U.S. officials stressed the absence of an official statement did not mean that the talks had floundered. However, during a dinner Friday night Kissinger in a toast described the negotiations with Syria as a “difficult process” although he said Khadam’s visit had made a major contribution toward restoring good relations between Washington and Damascus.
Khadam in a militant toast also declared Syria’s desire to establish “good relations” with Washington which he said could “be based only on mutual respect.” But he also warned that peace in the Middle East depends on Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands. After an earlier meeting with Kissinger, Khadam, who is regarded a leader of the radical Baath Party, said his country favors a continuation of the Mideast peace negotiations. “We feel it is necessary to give these efforts the opportunity and the chance to achieve a permanent, durable and just peace,” he told reporters. Richard Murphy, the newly-named U.S. Ambassador to Syria, sat in on yesterday’s meeting.
Meanwhile the State Department sought to play down reports that Syria had put its forces on alert purportedly to counter Israeli military moves. Kissinger told newsmen that all he knew about it was what he read in the newspapers. Alfred Atherton, Assistant Secretary for the Near East, said he was “skeptical” about the newspaper reports.
Khadam’s visit to Washington is part of a series by Middle East leaders to work out the next stage in peace negotiations. The next scheduled visitors are Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Omar Saqqaf and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin.