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Jordan-Syria Talks End; 'Ice Broken' on Reconciliation

January 01, 1986|Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria — Jordan's King Hussein and Syria's President Hafez Assad held a second round of reconciliation talks Tuesday, seeking agreement on ways to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq war and the Lebanese crisis, Jordanian sources said.

Hussein and Assad held a five-hour private meeting at Assad's palace in Damascus. Their aides joined them for a luncheon and a later one-hour session, which Syrian Vice President Addel-Halim Khaddam also attended.

As the Jordanian monarch later left for Amman, his capital, he was seen off at the airport by Assad and his senior aides, including Premier Abdel-Raouf Kasm, Foreign Minister Farouk Shareh and Interior Minister Mohammed Ghabbash.

No Official Comment

No official statement was issued at the end of the talks.

Hussein and Assad, who have been bitter rivals over Middle East policy since 1979, had also held two meetings Monday after the king's arrival on his first trip to Syria in six years.

The first session was attended by their senior aides, but the second meeting, lasting nearly three hours, was held in private.

Syrian sources have refused to comment on the progress of the reconciliation talks.

But one source in the Jordanian delegation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "At least the ice has been broken, and now there is a better chance for more coordination."

Proposals in 3 Areas

Several Jordanian sources said that the talks centered on evaluating proposals to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq war and the Lebanese crisis.

Assad opposes direct negotiations with Israel to resolve the 38-year-old Arab-Israeli strife, but the king recently began a campaign with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat seeking a negotiated peace with Israel.

The Iran-Iraq war, which broke out in September, 1980, has been a main point of Jordanian-Syrian conflict. In 1980, Jordan and Syria massed troops along their common border, raising fears of yet another war.

Jordan has allied itself with Iraq, Syria's bitterest Arab enemy, and Syria supports non-Arab Iran.

When asked whether there were any differences regarding the Lebanese situation, a Jordanian source said, "They agree that it is time that Lebanon enjoys some peace."

Senior Aides Present

The pro-Western monarch was accompanied by senior aides, including Prime Minister Zaid Rifai and Foreign Minister Taher Masri.

The king's visit culminates four months of intense efforts by Saudi Arabia to close Arab ranks in preparation for an Arab summit meeting in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The meeting has been delayed several times because of Arab conflicts.

Assad greeted Hussein with embraces and kisses on his arrival Monday and held a banquet Monday night in the king's honor.

Any true Jordanian-Syrian reconciliation could have profound effects on the turmoil in the Middle East. But, despite the warm greeting and banquet, few observers expect any quick settlement of longstanding differences between the king and Assad.

Sources suggested that the two nations may exchange ambassadors in the near future. Worsening relations led Jordan to pull its ambassador out of Damascus in 1982.

Syrian-Jordanian ties have been severed and restored four times since Hussein assumed the throne in 1953.

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