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Report: Syria Nixes Barak Meeting

January 15, 2000

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ Syria’s state-run newspapers today dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s call for a meeting with Syria’s president to settle differences in peace negotiations, calling the proposal far-fetched.

Barak was quoted in an interview published in Israel on Friday as saying some differences with Syria cannot be resolved without sitting down with President Hafez Assad and President Clinton.

In the Syrian-Israeli negotiations that have been taking place in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Barak has been negotiating with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, with Clinton sitting in occasionally.

In a front-page editorial, the government-run Al-Thawra accused Barak of trying to avoid the next round of negotiations, which are scheduled to begin Wednesday.

``Barak is trying, by submitting such impossible conditions over the level of negotiations, to kill in advance the third round of talks,″ said the commentary, which was signed by the editor, Amid Kholi.

A Barak-Assad meeting is ``far-fetched and would never contribute to pushing the peace process forward,″ the editorial added.

It did not mention the prospects for Barak and Assad to meet after a deal has been reached.

Syria’s state-run media act as mouthpieces for the government.

Peace talks between Syria and Israel resumed in December after a nearly four-year freeze. An agreement is expected to involve the return of most, if not all, of the Golan Heights, a border plateau seized by Israel during the 1967 Mideast war.

Al-Thawra also provided the first Syrian comment on the leak of a working document circulated at the talks. It was published Thursday in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The document notes wide differences on new borders and security arrangements. Before the leak, Syria had said the document could provide a basis for negotiations.

``Why did Israel leak the American document and publish, through its media, its full contents? Was it just to kill negotiations?″ Kholi asked in a separate editorial.

The document notes wide differences on new borders and security arrangements. Before the leak, Syria had said the document could provide a basis for negotiations.

Al-Thawra said the leak had increased ``doubt and skepticism about Israel’s real intentions and the extent of its respect for its undertakings.″

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