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Christopher Arrives with Bold Agenda As Israel and Jordan Huddle in Tents

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As Israeli and Jordanian teams convened in a tent on their border in yet another of this year’s historic milestones on the road to Middle East peace, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived in Israel with a packed diplomatic agenda that included preparations for next week’s summit between Jordan’s King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington, a tripartite meeting with his Israeli and Jordanian counterparts in Jordan, and a shuttle between Jerusalem and Damascus.

In addition to trying to help Israel and Syria along the road to peace, Christopher told reporters, he would also engage in efforts to pursue peace between Israel and Lebanon.

“There is new hope, new opportunities here,” Christopher said after meeting with Rabin on Monday.

“Peace is possible,” he said. “We must grasp that opportunity as firmly as we can.”

During his latest mission to the Middle East, Christopher was also scheduled to visit Syria and Jordan and to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Rabin appeared less upbeat than Christopher after their meeting on Monday.

“The United States wants to help, but the United States knows that the responsibility for the achievement of peace rests first and foremost with the two sides concerned,” the prime minister said.

The first leg of Christopher’s visit to the region came as Israeli and Jordanian negotiators met on their common border to launch their first public bilateral talks in the region.

Optimism prevailed as the talks got off the ground in tents in Ein Avrona in the Arava.

Both sides emphasized that their ultimate goal is to sign a peace treaty.

Fayez al-Tarawneh, the head of the Jordanian delegation, said he expects the negotiations “will culminate in a treaty of peace that delineates carefully our rights and duties under conditions of peace.”

Israel’s chief negotiator with the Jordanians, Elyakim Rubinstein, said, “The peace we seek is between two states, but also between peoples.”

Moving the talks to the region, he said, “should bring even closer home to the peoples of Israel and of Jordan the message of peace.”

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