U.S. Envoy Holds Talks With Syrian President
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ U.S. Mideast peace coordinator Dennis Ross met today with President Hafez Assad to discuss ways of reinvigorating stalled Arab-Israeli negotiations.
But that was expected to be overshadowed by clashes in south Lebanon, where guerrilla attacks on Israel’s self-proclaimed ″security zone″ have killed five Israeli soldiers and drawn threats of retaliation from the Jewish state.
Reports from Jerusalem indicated Ross was asked by Israeli leaders to warn Syria that Israel could take strong steps if the attacks continued. Israel has accused Syria of failing to rein in the Palestinian and Shiite Muslim Lebanese attackers.
Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, has 40,000 troops in the country as a peacekeeping force.
While Syria and Lebanon have curbed militia activity in much of Lebanon, they haven’t blocked guerrillas operations against the security zone on the grounds that it’s a legitimate resistance to occupation.
After Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and then withdrew, it carved out the 440-square-mile zone in 1985 to protect its northern border.
The talks between Ross and Assad took place at Assad’s summer resort in the coastal town of Latakia.
Ross was to leave later today for talks in Jordan. He also is to return to Israel, where he began his peace shuttle last week.
The English-language Syria Times said there would be no peace in the region until Israel ended its occupation of southern Lebanon and other Arab territories.
″Putting an end to Israel’s occupation is an indispensable condition for establishing peace and security in the region,″ the newspaper said. ″Unfortunately Israel wants its own security to be at the expense of the Arabs.″