THE tenth round of Middle East peace talks began in Washington June 15 with a gentle nudge from the United States for "real engagement" on tough land and peace issues.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking with Israel Television on June 14, said progress would depend on the Arab side. But negotiators from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians have repeatedly urged Washington to take a larger role in the talks and put pressure on Israel to make further concessions.
Analysts in Washington say US will probably have to lean on both Arabs and Israelis to elicit concessions that would ensure progress.
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians aim to achieve interim self-rule for the 1.75 million residents of the Israeli-occupied territories. A final settlement would follow five years later.
Israel has offered to allow the Palestinians to administer civil services in the territories and is talking to the delegation about elections for a self-governing authority in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But the Palestinians refused this offer in the last round because Israel would not discuss issues such as security and the future of Jewish settlements in the territories.
In the talks between Israel and Syria, the central issue is how much of the strategic Golan Heights Israel would have to surrender to get a peace accord.
Itamar Rabinovich, Israel's chief negotiator with Syria, told Israel Radio from Washington June 15 the Jewish state was prepared for detailed discussions of security arrangements. Israeli media reported that Washington had proposed Israel's talks with Syria, deadlocked over terms of a land-for-peace agreement, focus instead on security arrangements.
Syria wants back all the Golan Heights captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel would return part but won't specify the extent of withdrawal until Syria accepts "full peace" including open borders, embassies, and trade.