Israel and Syria

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Next week's peace talks between Israel and Syria are expected to focus on the future of the Golan Heights -- strategic land that Israel captured from its Arab neighbor in the 1967 Middle East war. Israeli and Syrian leaders agreed Wednesday to resume their negotiations, which broke off in 1996. The talks are to pick up where they left off nearly four years ago. Analysts say Syria and Israel were close to agreement then. During the renewed negotiations, Israel is expected to insist on security guarantees in its northern territory in exchange for the return of the Golan Heights. Syria might be called upon to demilitarize the area to ensure that goal. U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the resumption of talks at a news conference Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa plan to meet for two days next week in Washington, before returning to the Middle East for more negotiations. The breakthrough came after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Tuesday with Syrian President Hafez Assad in the Syrian capital of Damascus; she met Wednesday with Barak in Jerusalem. VIDEO Watch U.S. President Bill Clinton give his opening remarks at his Wednesday news conference (December 8) QuickTime Play Real 28K 80K Windows Media 28K 80K AUDIO Listen to Clinton's statement on the Mideast peace process 2.5 MB/4.07 min. AIFF or WAV sound ALSO Albright takes work break to stroll in Manger Square MESSAGE BOARD Mideast peace Major issues in dispute between Israel and Syria: How much territory Israel will relinguish. Syria demands all of the Golan Heights, a high ground overlooking northeastern Israel that Syria lost in the 1967 war. Syria also is seeking territory stretching to the Sea of Galilee. Whether Syria will agree to normal diplomatic relations with Israel, including an exchange of ambassadors. The timing of the Israel pullback and whether it will be undertaken in stages. Security arrangements after a pullback. The Golan Heights have served as a protective barrier for Israel and it is seeking substitute arrangements, including an early warning system of imminent attack. From The Associated Press . . .

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