Peres Spars with IDF Head About Peace Talks with Syria

As Israeli and Syria peace negotiators continue their talks in eastern Maryland, Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the Israel Defense Force chief of staff expressed disagreement about the chances for reaching a peace agreement by the end of the year.

Speaking at Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak said the timetable for the Israeli-Syrian talks was too short for a peace treaty to be reached before elections were held later this year in the United States and Israel.

Israeli elections are scheduled for November, but there has been speculation that Peres may call for early elections if no progress is made on the Syrian track.

At the Cabinet session, Peres objected to Shahak’s pessimistic assessment, stressing that some progress had been made at last week’s talks in Maryland on the issue of normalizing Israeli-Syrian ties.

After meeting in late December and early January, Israeli and Syrian negotiating teams resumed their negotiations Jan. 24 at the Wye Plantation, a private conference center.

For the first time since the talks were abruptly broken off last June, the teams included military experts from both sides.

During a weekend break before the talks were slated to resume this week, the two negotiating teams met separately with chief American mediator Dennis Ross.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who on Jan. 25 met with the two sides at Wye, is scheduled to travel to the Middle East on Feb. 5 for five days of shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Damascus.

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