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Syrian Official’s Remarks Encourage Israeli Government

Israeli officials have welcomed remarks by the Syrian foreign minister that the peace process with Israel should be speeded up.

Addressing reporters in Beirut, where he was briefing Lebanese officials on last week’s peace talks in Washington, Farouk al-Sharaa said there had been “progress,” but it was insufficient.

Last week’s high-level military talks on possible security arrangements on the Golan Heights in the event of a peace accord between Israel and Syria were seen as the first substantial negotiations between the two countries in six months.

Al-Sharaa characterized the meetings between Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, and his Syrian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Hikmat Shihabi, as “serious.”

Al-Sharaa said Syria wanted to move ahead quickly toward an agreement, but that Israel was dragging its feet.

In Jerusalem, Peres denied the complaint, but voiced his gratification at the Syrian minister’s positive words.

“We are willing to move the peace process forward at the required rate in order to achieve peace as soon as possible,” Peres said.

U.S. envoy Dennis Ross is due in the region Monday to continue the Israeli- Syrian dialogue and to prepare for further talks in Washington later this month between lower-ranking officers of the two military staffs.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reassured Golan settlers Wednesday that there would be no movement form the region before an agreement is ratified by the nation in the a referendum.

Rabin met for more than an hour with a delegation from the northern Golan settlement of El Rom.

The settlers said later that even though the prime minister empathized with the uncertainty of their situation, he did not allay their fears that their settlement would be the first to be withdrawn in a first-stage, partial pullback.

Israel reportedly would want to see the security provisions an normalization provisions of an agreement with Syria going into effect before any further withdrawal.

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