Shepherdstown may gain fame from talks

December 23, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Regardless of how successful the peace talks are between Syria and Israel, Shepherdstown will go down in history for its role, a Shepherd College professor said Wednesday.

"Most people who are following this seem to be optimistic about it. This, I think, will be mentioned in the history books," said Anders Henriksson, an Eastern European specialist at Shepherd College.

U.S. State Department officials have said they do not believe an agreement will be reached during the talks, but that is typical, Henriksson said.

U.S. diplomats usually do not want to be overly optimistic about peace talks, Henriksson said.

He said if there is any agreement, it will likely be a "building block" needed to reach a final solution.

"There's still much to be done," Henrikkson said.

Beginning Jan. 3, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa are expected to enter into talks at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in an attempt to end 51 years of conflict between Israel and Syria.


The parties will negotiate on four major areas: Withdrawal from occupied territories, the character of peaceful relations between Syria and Israel, security arrangements, and a timetable for peace, according to State Department officials.

The talks follow two days of negotiations last week in Washington, which President Clinton helped mediate.

State Department officials said Barak and al-Sharaa represent the "highest level" officials who would normally participate in such talks, giving the summit added significance.

A State Department official who did not want to be identified agreed with Henriksson that the talks will give Shepherdstown a new identity.

"Shepherdstown will certainly gain a notoriety for hosting these talks," the State Department official said.

How much notoriety depends on the success of the talks, the official said.

Like Henriksson, the State Department spokesman said the Shepherdstown talks may only be a basis for a solution.

A resolution possibly called the "Shepherdstown Agreements" could come out of the talks, the official said. Then a more formal resolution - a treaty, for instance - could be signed, he said.

"At this point, the end of the road is not at Shepherdstown, it's just a beginning," the State Department official said.

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