Israeli and Syrian negotiators have resumed their peace negotiations, with American officials mediating the process.
The two sides are meeting at the secluded Wye Plantation in eastern Maryland, which is operated by the Aspen Institute and was chosen to provide a tranquil setting far from the reach of reporters.
Diplomatic sources in Washington were quoted as saying that the Syrians preferred to have an American mediator in the room at all times during the talks.
The sources said the Syrians rejected the idea of drawing up a declaration of principles, as Israel and the Palestinians did in 1993, which served as the framework for their historic agreement.
At the same time, the Syrian delegation was said to be coming to the talks with a full mandate from Syrian President Hafez Assad to negotiate and to be flexible about Israeli proposals.
Among the ideas Israel brought with it to the talks were economic development projects, addressing such issues as water resources.
Regarding the highly contentious issue of the scope of a potential Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Israel’s deputy foreign minister said Wednesday that Israel would not agree to a key Syrian demand that it withdraw to the June 4, 1967, border that was in effect before Israel took control of the Golan in the Six-Day War.
“That is not an internationally recognized border,” Deputy Foreign Minister Eli Dayan told Israel Radio. “In the peace between Israel and Egypt, we based negotiations on the internationally recognized border. I’m not saying that Sinai is the same as the Golan, but there has to be some basis for talks.”
Israel and Syrian last held talks in June, when Syria broke off the negotiations because of an Israeli demand for early-warning ground stations on the Golan if its troops withdrew from the region under the terms of a peace deal.
Under the new approach being implemented during the latest round of talks, the two sides agreed to address a number of issues at the same time in an effort to prevent the negotiations from becoming deadlocked over any one particular issue.