Israeli justice minister, Yossi Beilin, proposed on Saturday that Syria consider a suggestion made by British journalist Patrick Seale, an expert on Syria, who called for a compromise agreement on the control of the northeastern beachfront of Lake Tiberius as a possible starting point for the renewal of peace negotiations between the two countries, reported Haarez newspaper.
Beilin sent out what appeared to be a feeler to Damascus during an interview on Channel Two's "Meet the Press" program, said the paper.
Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, had been informed of Beilin's planned appearance on the program, and has not rejected Seale's idea in the past, said Haaretz.
During the interview, Beilin said that the heir-apparent to the Syrian presidency, Bashar Assad, should consider Seale's proposal, which he is familiar with.
Seale, who was close to late Syrian president Hafez Assad and his family, published his proposal as a call on the leaders of both Israel and Syria, following the stalled negotiations between them. Among the main points of Seale's proposal is that the lake's water remains under Israeli sovereignty and a joint committee divide the water of the Jordan River at the Banias source.
In addition, citizens of both countries would have access to the road circumventing the lake, and Syria would have its border on the north-eastern bank while promising not to contaminate or use the lake's water.
Barak's official position on the issue of the eastern coastline of Lake Tiberius is that the sovereignty over it and the Jordan river should be in Israel's hands, and that the basis for any agreement with Syria should begin with the 1923 international boundary, to which agreed changes would be made, the paper said.
Among the considerations behind the idea of restarting the negotiations with Syria is the belief that it would be best to reach an accord with the northern neighbor during the tenure of the outgoing US President Bill Clinton, said Haaretz.
According to the paper, Beilin believes that it is possible to reach agreements with the Syrians and the Palestinians in two months, and bring the agreements to a "double referendum" for a total peace.
A source at Barak's office, quoted by the daily, expressed doubt at the possibility of reaching an agreement with the Syrians, saying "it is clear that in the coming weeks, emphasis will be laid on the Palestinian track," - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)