US Secretary of State Warren Christopher is considering a visit to the Middle East to try to revive peace negotiations between Syria and Israel, State Department officials say. However, the officials say no firm plans have been made.

Christopher is due to visit Naples in the first week of July to accompany President Clinton at the Group of Seven (G-7) summit, and he should start a two-week Asian tour on 23 July. Any Middle East trip would have to be between those visits.

Both Israel and Syria have stated that further US mediation is needed to push forward peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has made a series of statements highlighting Syria’s military threat to Israel, but he has also repeated his view that no peace can be achieved unless Israel makes a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The main difference between the two sides is the timing of such a withdrawal.

Rabin has been criticised by the Likud opposition, which argues that Israel does not face any serious military threat from the Arab states and therefore does not need to give up any more territory.