Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has reiterated his government’s commitment to reaching a full peace treaty with Syria, but has said there are still large gaps between the two sides’ positions. Rabin told members of Israel’s knesset on 3 October that the four main issues remained unresolved, namely borders, a timetable of withdrawal, normalisation of relations and security arrangements.

Rabin’s difficulties in negotiating a settlement were compounded on 29 September when proposals were submitted to the knesset by a group of Labour party members to table a law stating that the government would need an absolute majority to withdraw from the Golan. ‘If that law passes I will have no choice but to inform the Americans that I cannot conduct the negotiations with Syria. I warn you that this will also influence the other partners in the talks,’ he said on 29 September.

In New York, Syria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Farouq al-Shara restated Syrian demands that peace could only come after a full withdrawal of Israeli troops. ‘The ongoing peace process cannot be completed without an Israeli withdrawal from the whole of the Syrian Golan and the south of Lebanon,’ he said on 3 October.

The US has attempted to boost confidence between the two sides by saying it will commit its troops to any international force monitoring a settlement. The offer was made by US assistant secretary of state for near east affairs Robert Pelletreau to the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee on 4 October. He said the two sides were gradually coming closer to an agreement on withdrawal from the Golan. ‘Each party is preparing its own public for peace with the other,’ he said.

Talks between Jordan and Israel have been making faster progress. Rabin said in his speech to the knesset that a peace treaty with Jordan could be signed by the end of the year. His comments followed two high level meetings in Aqaba and Washington, which resulted on 3 October in agreement on a series of economic and commercial joint ventures (see page 7).

In Cairo, talks between Israel and the PLO restarted on 3 October, with Palestinian elections and the next stage of Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank at the top of the agenda. The two sides have yet to agree on whether the Palestinian elections will be for a 100-member legislative council or a smaller executive body (see Gaza/West Bank).