IRAN WATCHES WITH ANXIETY AS SYRIAN AND ISRAELI PEACE TALKS RESUME
PARIS 14TH Dec. (IPS) As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak flew to Washington Tuesday to meet the Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Shara' to resume the stalemated Syrian-Israeli peace talks, the Islamic Republic, Arabs-Israeli reconciliation's staunchest enemy for the first times reported the event without comment nor criticising either side.
In an Athens-dated dispatch, the official news agency IRNA quoted Mr. Barak as having "opined" that the upcoming talks between Syrian and Israel "may be wrapped up in weeks".
"The Israeli state-run radio quoted Barak as saying during a cabinet meeting last night that if good-will prevailed on both sides, peace talks would be completed in a short time", the official Iranian News Agency reported, adding that the Labour premier has asked his ministers to be ready for organising a referendum over Israeli withdrawal from the Golan heights.
Analysts noted that this is the first time that the Islamic Republic report such news without accusing Israel of flouting or deceiving the Arab side or warning the Arab negotiators against Israeli's evil intentions.
As the Islamic Republic's oldest and only "strategic ally" in the Arab world, Syria is benefiting from the ruling ayatollahs largesse, that includes receiving cheap oil, interest-free loans and construction of silos by Iranian companies.
Tehran has also promised Damascus that it would not oppose peace negotiations with Tel-Aviv, assuring that it would uphold the strategic alliance even if Syria signs peace with Israel and establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.
Analysts say peace agreement between Israel and Syria would be a big blow to the Islamic Republic, since as a result of the accord, both Damascus and Beirut would be responsible for maintaining security at Israeli-Lebanese borders now partly controlled by the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah.
But so far, there is no official reaction from Tehran on the subject.
According to IRNA, the Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations have generated "deep concern" in Palestinian Authority circles.
"The Palestinian Authority had welcomed the resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks, but privately PA officials voiced worries that a treaty between Syria and Israel now would distract attention from the Palestinian cause and leave the Palestinians in a still weaker position vis-a-vis Israel", IRNA said.
The talks, scheduled to be held in Washington on 15th and 16th of December was arranged after months of secret American efforts that included several telephone exchanges between the American and the Syrian presidents.
On Monday, the Knesset, or Israeli parliament had approved by a tiny majority of 47 to 3a1 and 24 abstention the resumption of negotiations with Syria.
Although the US State Secretary Mrs. Madeleine Albright has described the event as "an amazing moment, and there is a sense that a historic opportunity is present", informed Israeli diplomatic sources cautioned against much optimism. ENDS SYRIA-ISRAEL 141299