Israel and Syria reportedly have agreed to allow military officials to join negotiations regarding security arrangements that would accompany any peace agreement between the two countries.
According to the daily newspaper Ha’aretz, political sources were quoted as saying that “in the very near future,” military experts from both sides would join the talks, currently being held at the ambassadorial level in Washington.
According to these sources Syria and Israel have made enough progress on the principles of a peace agreement to include senior military officers in the talks. Negotiations reportedly are centering on the extent of and timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the nature of full relations between the two countries.
The leading Israeli candidates for such discussions, Ha’aretz reported, are Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, the outgoing Israel Defense Force chief of staff, and Gens. Uzi Dayan, Uri Saguy and Danny Yatom.
Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovich, flatly denied the report that senior officers will take part in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
The development follows President Clinton’s recent visit to the region, which was believed to have brought Syrian flexibility in two areas, Ha’aretz reported.
On the timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Syrian President Hafez Assad reportedly agreed to a withdrawal over a period of 16 months.
Prior to Clinton’s trip. Assad was demanding an Israeli withdrawal within one year, while Israel expressed its willingness to make a staged withdrawal over a period of five years.
After his talks with Clinton, Assad reportedly also agreed to make symbolic moves toward normalization of ties after the first phase of an Israeli withdrawal. But Assad was still against the full establishment of diplomatic ties, including the exchange of ambassadors, as Israel has been demanding.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is expected to discuss the Israeli-Syrian negotiations with Clinton during his trip to the United States later this month.
In a related development, The Sunday Times of London quoted Rabin as saying that Israel has no plans to assert “sovereign rule over any part of the Golan Heights.”
Political sources in Jerusalem reportedly denied the quote attributed to Rabin.
Citing Arab sources close to the talks Clinton held in Damascus, the Times article also said Clinton had agreed in principle to the stationing of American forces along a buffer zone between Israel and Syria.