Peace Talks with Syria Possible, Levy Says During Visit to Spain

Peace talks between Israel and Syria could begin immediately if Damascus gives a positive reply to President Bush’s recent request for flexibility, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said here Tuesday.

Levy spoke to reporters after meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez.

“We are expecting that Syria will finally give its answer and that the answer will be a positive one,” Levy said, referring to letters on a proposed peace conference that Bush sent to the leaders of Israel and the Arab countries last month.

“If the answer of Syria is positive, we do not see any obstacle to start the technical part of the encounter, and direct talks could take place immediately,” Levy said.

“We hope Syria will understand that peace is as important for her as it is for Israel,” he added.

Although Levy insisted that peace talks now hinge on Syria, Israel itself rejected Bush’s proposals in a letter from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on June 6.

The only other country to reply so far is Jordan, whose response the Bush administration characterized as “unhelpful.”

Levy dwelt on Syria’s rapid rearmament following its participation in the Persian Gulf War and warned Damascus against military adventures,

“We are very closely monitoring the increase of Syria’s arsenal of mass destruction, including improved Scud missiles delivered by North Korea,” Levy said. “We are very concerned by this development.”

AGREEMENTS SIGNED WITH SPAIN

He warned that Israel’s restraint when it came under Iraqi missile attack during the Gulf war “should definitely not be taken as a pattern applicable to all circumstances.

“Should Syria become involved in such an adventure,” he said, “Israel will defend itself with very serious consequences for Syria.”

The Israeli and Spanish foreign ministers signed a declaration of principles concerning next year’s observance of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. That is also the year of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, which Spain will also celebrate.

Levy and Fernandez also renewed Israeli Spanish agreements on scientific and technological cooperation.

Spain agreed to consider the possibility of granting Israeli citizens “special treatment” when issuing visas.

Spanish officials told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that at the moment, European Community regulations compel Spain to impose visa regulations on all North African visitors, including Moroccan citizens who did not need a visa to enter Spain until now.

It is therefore not possible at present to issue visas to Israeli tourists when they land in Spain, the officials said.

Levy visited the ancient synagogues in Toledo on Tuesday. He was scheduled to meet Wednesday with King Juan Carlos and with Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez Marquez.

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