In 1999, President Hafiz al-Asad was re-elected for his 5th term as Syrian President capturing 99.4 percent of the vote. He has served in this post since taking power in a 1970 coup. However, the most important development may be the grooming of his son Bashar, to eventually succeed him.
President Asad’s health has been bad for years, but it recently has been reportedly deteriorating. After seemingly putting peace with Israel on the backburner in late 1999 to ensure his son's position as heir, Assad surprisingly announced that he would send his foreign minister to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Washington. The December summit was the highest-level talks between the two countries. The meeting was held despite Israel's refusal to agree to withdraw to June 4, 1967 borders, a Syrian demand for resuming talks.
While the meeting brought great euphoria, the negotiations are expected to be very difficult. Many believe an agreement can be reached within a year. If a treaty is struck, it will likely lead to a treaty with Lebanon and a withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)