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Israeli Outlines Future Relations With Syria And Palestinians

  • Roland Eggleston

Crans-Montana, June 21 (RFE/RL) - The personal representative of the new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has told an international conference that future relations with Syria and the Palestinian Authority will depend on their own actions.

He also said Israel would closely watch this weekend's Arab summit meeting in Cairo to see whether there was a genuine desire to continue the peace process or whether the Arab world was interested only in rhetoric.

Zalman Shoval discussed the policy of the new Israel government at an international political conference in the Swiss alpine resort of Crans-Montana.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had been scheduled to attend the session but failed to arrive today.

Representatives of most Middle East countries listened to Shoval as he confirmed previous statements by Netanyahu that the new Government will continue the peace process but with some changes

"There must be a greater appreciation on the Arab side, including our Palestinian friends, that some things are bound to change after the elections,"Shoval said. "Not with regard to agreements which have already been made but certainly in matters which remain to be settled".

He warned that " not all the expectations raised in the past will be realizable"

In regard to this weekend's Arab summit, the Israeli officcial said: "if the Cairo summit reinforces the participant's committment to peace, it might not be a bad thing. If, however, it should just turn out to be a forum for inflammatory and competitive rhetoric, it will not be a good thing for peace and stability in the region."

Shoval was critical of Syria, with which the previous Government had tried to negotiate a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan heights in return for a peace settlement.

He said Syria had not responded to the previous government's offer and said Israel was doubtful about Syria's understanding of peace or even if it had made a decision to live in peace with Israel. "The jury is still out," he said.

Shoval also said Israel's new government was ready to explore every possibility to move ahead with Syria and called on Damascus to start negotiations. He stressed the point that there should be no prior conditions from either side.

Turning to the Palestinians, Shoval drew a link between helping the Palestinian Authority overcome economic problems and its readiness to combat terrorism attacks on Israel.

"The present economic deterioration in the Gaza strip -- and potentially also in other areas which have already been turned over to the Palestinian Authority, or will be turned-over to it -- is a very worrying factor for all sides, including Israel," he said.

"There is more than one reason for what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere with regard to the poor economic situation there, and most of the blame lies at the doorstep of the Palestinian Authority itself, " Shoval said, adding that " But once the Palestinians act more responsibly, more effectively and more truthfully in preventing violence and terrorism, I have no doubt that the world economy, including Israel's new government, will double their efforts to help the Palestinian's economy."