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Progress with Syria and Jordan Likely in Wake of Breakthrough

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The momentous breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is accelerating progress on the other negotiating tracks, with both Syria and Jordan predicting tentative agreements with Israel in the near future.

Syrian chief negotiator Mowaffak al-Allaf told reporters Thursday that he hoped a draft declaration in the long-deadlocked talks between Syria and Israel could be worked out by the end of next week.

His Israeli counterpart, Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, voiced similar hopes earlier this week.

Progress is also expected in the Israeli-Jordanian talks, but officials from both countries called premature a New York Times report saying that Jordan and Israel were about to sign a declaration of principles.

The two sides have been close to an agreement for months, however, and it seemed likely that once the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel formalized their agreement on self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho, progress with Jordan would not be far behind.

The Israeli officials indicated that overall, the talks were treading water this week, as negotiators waited for news about whether Israel and the PLO had agreed to recognize one another.

Both Syria and Jordan were reportedly concerned about an agreement being reached between Israel and the PLO without their knowledge and participation.

Israeli and American officials have been among those attempting to reassure Syria and Jordan that progress between the Israelis and Palestinians should be viewed not as a threat but as a useful catalyst for quick movement on the other negotiating tracks.

SYRIA EXPANDING DEFINITION OF PEACE

In recent months, any progress in the Israeli-Syrian talks has been stalled by definitions of terms.

The Israelis have been waiting for the Syrians to define what type of peace they are prepared to offer, while the Syrians have been waiting for Israel to say how far it is willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights.

But, in a positive indication for further progress, Rabinovich said earlier this week that Israel now believed Syria had expanded its definition of peace beyond just security arrangements.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, appearing Thursday on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” news program, said he did not think it likely that Syria would play a negative role in the peace process.

When asked whether he thought Syria would attempt to unravel the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, Christopher said, “I don’t expect that to happen, frankly.”

And the Lebanese were expected to follow the lead of the Syrians.

Meanwhile, the Americans, who have been somewhat out of the peace process picture this week as much of the action shifted to Europe, were making plans to encourage international financial contributions to help the Palestinians.

Christopher said in his radio interview that most of the funds to assist the Palestinians in setting up basic services in the Gaza Strip and Jericho would come from sources outside the United States, however.

“The United States, I think, will participate in the matter, but the funds, I think, will primarily come from others,” the secretary said, citing the Persian Gulf states and Japan.

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