JERUSALEM (Nov. 21)
U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has proposed that President Clinton invite the leaders of Israel and Syria to Washington next week for a peace summit.
“My sense of the situation is that the next step is up to the United States,” Specter said here after separate meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Syrian President Hafez Assad.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Glyn Davies, attempted to distance the Clinton administration from Specter’s remarks.
“This is a mission that Senator Specter is engaged in on his own,” Davies said Thursday at a briefing. “He’s not traveling at our request.”
Davies would not comment directly about the senator’s proposal for a Clinton- Netanyahu-Assad summit.
“I think we’ll wait until Senator Specter comes back,” he said.
Specter met Thursday with Netanyahu to brief him on his talks in Damascus.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Netanyahu, Specter said he believed that Syria was not planning any aggressive actions toward Israel.
He described recent Syrian troop movements in Lebanon that put Israel on high alert as “purely routine.”
“There was no sense of hostility with respect to the Syrian intention in any way shape or form,” Specter said. “On the subject of resuming peace talks, President Assad said he would be willing to do so only if the parties resume the negotiations where they broke off” earlier this year.
A senior Israeli source welcomed the idea of a Washington summit, but said it was unlikely to take place.
Negotiations between Israel and Syria were suspended in March after Syria refused to condemn a series of Hamas suicide bombings carried out at the time in Israel.
The talks, which at the time involved a Labor-led Israeli government, had been conducted on the principle that Israel would make a withdrawal on the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.
Netanyahu has rejected the idea of a Golan withdrawal as a precondition for resuming the talks.