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Clinton Joins Peres in Reviving Syrian-Israeli Peace Negotiations

By Robin Wright
Los Angeles Times

President Clinton announced Monday that the United States will launch a new effort to revive deadlocked negotiations between Israel and Syria aimed at concluding the final stage of a Middle East peace.

After talks with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Clinton said that Secretary of State Warren Christopher will fly to the region later this week to discuss new ideas put forward by Peres.

"We agree that to close the circle of peace, it will take more intensive and more practical negotiations," in which both sides will have to make a greater effort, Clinton told a joint news conference with Peres. "I am determined that nothing, nothing will deter us from this task in the weeks and the months ahead."

The president indicated that he is optimistic about the prospects for movement, in part because the atmosphere in the region has changed since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin last month by a Jewish extremist opposed to territorial concessions.

"Sad as it is to say, the Syrian leader and the Syrian people now see the exceptional price that former Prime Minster Rabin and Prime Minister Peres are willing to pay in their search for peace," the president said. "I think that is the fundamental new reality here."

Clinton also talked by telephone Monday with Syrian President Hafez Assad, who told him that he is committed to moving the peace process forward and reaching an early agreement with Israel, Clinton said.

Administration sources said that Peres feels strongly about concluding a peace treaty with Syria and Lebanon within the next six months - and before Israeli elections in 1996.

At the news conference, Peres said that Israel seeks "an opening of a new, maybe a final, chapter - the end of war in the Middle East in its totality. Peace between Syria and Israel and between Lebanon and Israel will leave no reason whatsoever for the continuation of belligerency."

Peres stressed the urgency of renewed peace efforts. "There is no time now for political vacations. We intend to continue the momentum full speed ahead," he said.