Private talks on Middle East peace proposals have begun in Syria between President Hafez al-Assad and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
Private talks on Middle East peace proposals have begun in Syria between President Hafez al-Assad and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Reuters report that observers predict frank exchanges during the meeting, especially as Syria is reportedly greatly troubled by Egyptian overtures to Israel.
SYNOPSIS: There were no signs of discord, though, when President Sadat arrived in Damascus on Wednesday afternoon. President Assad warmly welcomed the Egyptian leader who was making his first visit to the capital since 1974. Earlier in the day, before leaving Cairo, President Sadat said he hoped to visit Israel within a week. This followed his announcement last week that he was ready to go to the Israeli Parliament in pursuit of peace. The proposal was enthusiastically received in Israel and in American Dr. Kissinger hailed the move as "a courageous step".
But Syria is reported to be alarmed at the possibility of Egypt reaching an individual agreement with Israel. Observers predict President Assad will appeal to Egypt to negotiate only as part of a unified Arab team.
The talks are expected to last two days and are highly confidential.
To meet the Egyptian leader, President Assad cancelled a scheduled appearance at a ceremony celebrating the seventh anniversary of his domestic anti-corruption campaign. This indication of the importance of the talks - and the secrecy surrounding them, has led to speculation that King Hussein of Jordan and Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat might be invited to join the two leaders. There have also been unconfirmed reports that President Sadat will stop over in Riyadh on his way back to Cairo in order to brief Saudi leaders on the outcome of the talks. Meanwhile, in Israel, officials are already reported to be preparing for President Sadat's visit - including sewing new Egyptian flags.