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POLITICAL FORECAST : Will Syria Soon Make Peace With Israel?

October 30, 1994

Will Syrian President Hafez Assad sign a peace treaty with Israel? The Times asked five experts on the Middle East.

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William B. Quandt

Professor of government, University of Virginia, and Middle East expert on the National Security Council during Carter Administration.

The chances of peace with Syria being negotiated and carried out are better than they've ever been. There is logic in this piece of the puzzle falling into place. Now there is peace with Egypt and Jordan, it rules out the option of an all-Arab war, and Assad doesn't want to remain isolated. The only serious military threat to Israel is from Syria. If he can end that threat, the Arab-Israeli war is essentially over, and the state of Israel is secure.

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Judith Kipper

A fellow of the Brookings Institution, member of Middle East Council on Foreign Relations. I think President Assad will make peace. He has said he would, and he went further in being specific than he ever has in the past. (Once peace is achieved), it means normalizing and stabilizing the area so the real issues of economic development can be tackled.

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Richard W. Murphy

Senior fellow on New York-based Middle East Council on Foreign Relations. I think Assad wants peace, and his people want peace. But it will take a long time. He wants the sort of affirmation that (Yitzhak) Rabin can't give, meaning complete withdrawal (from Golan). The timing is important. Can they put their needs in conjunction with the Israeli elections? Rabin will be campaigning this time next year. Can they make a deal by then or do they want to risk facing a Likud government? The opposition could say he's endangering Israel's security by dealing with the PLO and Syria.

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Joseph J. Sisco

Partner in the Washington consulting firm, Sisco Associates, and former undersecretary of state, Nixon Administration. There is no immediate outlook that Assad is going to make peace with Israel. The gap on key issues is still significant. He continues to insist on total withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and Israel insists on a full peace that includes diplomatic relations, open borders, economic interaction and actual cooperation. Hard negotiations are ahead, and there is absolutely no breakthrough.

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Gary G. Sick

Adjunct professor of Middle East politics, Columbia University, and a former member of the National Security Council in the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. This is the final stage of the process that began with the Camp David accords. That was the first breakthrough and it challenged the other Arab states to follow Egypt's example. Once the Palestine Liberation Organization was in, and now Jordan, Syria became the only significant player left. Countries on the fringes, like Iran, can afford to take radical positions against Israel. But I would not be surprised if it went on for several years.*

Political Forecast interviews were conducted by Therese K. Lee.

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