US Secretary of State Warren Christopher was to start a four-day visit to the Middle East on 5 August. The visit aimed at following up the 25 July agreement between Jordan and Israel and sought to make progress in the negotiations between Israel and Syria.

Christopher was to visit Egypt first and then move on to Israel, Jordan and Syria. He was to return to Washington on 9 August.

The most sensitive part of the visit relates to the Syrian-Israeli talks. Syria has criticised the Jordan-Israel agreement, and has rebuffed Israel’s call for a goodwill gesture. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for such a gesture after talks with Egypt’s President Mubarak in the Sinai resort of Taba on 1 August. However, Rabin also said that Israel desired peace with Syria and was ready to carry out what he described as certain requirements (see Cover Story).

Christopher’s visit follows an increase in tension in the region after Western and Israeli accusations that Iranian-backed organisations were responsible for the bomb attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Buenos Aires and London in July. Israel had been expected to carry out an operation in Lebanon against the Hezbollah resistance group in retaliation for the bombings. However, the Lebanese government says US efforts have resulted in Israel showing restraint, at least until the end of the Christopher visit.