U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher met in Damascus with Syrian President Hafez Assad this week, but there was no reported breakthrough in the long-stalled Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.
“I had five hours of good discussions with President Assad today,” Christopher told reporters monday before leaving Damascus for Jordan. He provided no further details about the talks.
Christopher was scheduled to brief Israeli leaders on Tuesday about his discussions with Assad.
According to U.S. officials, Christopher was scheduled to return to the Syrian capital on Tuesday for further discussions before leaving for home.
The officials said Monday’s talks covered all aspects of the Israeli-syrian negotiations, which have been at an impasse over the extent and timing of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
It remained unclear whether Christopher’s visit would result in a resumption of talks in Washington between the Israeli and Syrian ambassadors and high-ranking military officials of the two countries. Assad suspended those talks in December.
Christopher’s visit to the Middle East — his first effort at shuttle diplomacy in the region this year — began with a visit to Egypt on March 7.
He arrived in Israel two days later to the news that Israel and the Palestinians had earlier in the day agreed to set a new target date of July 1 for completing talks on an Israeli redeployment in the West Bank.
Christopher held separate meetings over the weekend with Israeli leaders and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in an effort to spur on Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been put on hold in the wake of repeated terror attacks against Israelis.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Christopher secured long-promised financial help for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority from the Persian Gulf states.
During a brief stopover in Jordan on Monday before flying on to Israel, Christopher pledged that Washington would keep its promise to write off Jordan’s entire debt to the U.S. government.
President Clinton pledged to write off the Jordanian debt before Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty in October. But the House Appropriations Committee recently proposed cutting the Jordanian debt relief from $275 million to $50 million.
“All those who have a stake in Middle East peace have to support Jordan,” Christopher said at a news conference after meeting with JOrdan’s King Hussein. “America’s commitment to Jordan will be fulfilled.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.