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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Syria's Assad Rejects Jordan-Style Treaty With Israel

CAIRO -- Syrian President Hafez Assad ruled out on Tuesday any possibility that the recent Israel-Jordan peace accord might serve as a model for a deal between Israel and his own country, saying it would be blasphemy to lease some of the land in the disputed Golan Heights back to the Israelis. "Our land is ours. We consider it would be blasphemy for any country to speak of leasing its land to other leaderships. And I doubt anyone would intend that Syria would lease its land to Israel," Assad told reporters in Cairo.


He was commenting on the lease-back arrangement which formed part of the historic peace treaty initialed Monday between Israel and Jordan, under which Israel will keep the Tsofar settlement in the Arava desert and retain the right to work farm fields on Jordan's side of the border.


Israel's parliament will convene to ratify the accord next Monday and Jordan's parliament is expected to act soon. A final signing ceremony will take place the following Wednesday along the Israeli-Jordanian border. The White House has said U.S. President Bill Clinton will attend the event, to which Russian President Boris Yeltsin has also been invited.


The treaty also calls for Israel to supply water to Jordan and cede some land and provides for the setting up of embassies and full diplomatic ties within a month.


Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on Tuesday that Israel preferred this treaty with Jordan over its 1979 treaty with Egypt as a model for peace with Syria.


In rejecting a Jordan-style treaty, Assad also criticized Arab states which have broken ranks and reached separate agreements with Israel. PLO chief Yasser Arafat on Tuesday also condemned the accord as undercutting Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.


In a statement, Arafat said: "This is a outrageous infringement on the declaration of principles between the PLO and Israel, and the letters exchanged between the two parties in regards to Jerusalem, the holy Islamic and Christian shrines."


He viewed Israel's promise to give Jordan a special role in overseeing religious sites and charities as jumping the gun on talks on the final status of Jerusalem, which are not set to start until 1996.


Israeli and Jordanian officials met in the Jordanian port of Aqaba Tuesday to set about the task of translating their new agreement into reality.


(Reuters, AP)