Spectacle of Shepherdstown Peace Talks continues

January 04, 2000

DemonstratorsBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - For the second day in a row, President Clinton traveled to Shepherdstown to assist in the peace talks between Israel and Syria, and U.S. State Department officials reported progress.

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During an afternoon meeting at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa met face-to-face in a meeting described as "very productive" by U.S. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin.

Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were also at the meeting, Rubin said.

"The process is clearly on track," Rubin told reporters in a conference telephone call at Shepherd College's Butcher Center late Wednesday afternoon.


Clinton arrived in Shepherdstown by motorcade about 1:47 p.m.

He left town about 6 p.m. en route to Washington, D.C.

About 20 state police cars and other vehicles accompanied Clinton's black limousine, and he could be seen reading by a dome light as his car traveled eastbound through the intersection of Duke and German streets.

Lubavitcher Hasidic JewThe reported progress in the talks was in contrast to Monday afternoon's talks, when there was a "procedural hang-up" in the negotiations, Rubin said during an earlier press briefing at the college's Frank Arts Center Tuesday afternoon.

Reporters asked Rubin whether Clinton's decision to return to Shepherdstown Tuesday meant the talks were going well or whether they were in trouble.

Rubin would say only that the president had a "relatively light schedule" that allowed him to come to the talks.

"You should not read disaster or success into every arrival or departure of the president," Rubin told reporters.

Rubin broke off the afternoon press briefing when he received word that Clinton had arrived at the Clarion.

After the press briefing, several Israeli organizations demonstrated between the Frank Arts Center and the Butcher Center. The groups protested any attempt to give up the Golan Heights to Syria.

Police reported no problems during the peaceful demonstrations.

Then about 4 p.m., Rubin called reporters into a White House press office in the Butcher Center to report the progress in the talks.

Earlier in the week, Rubin described the talks as high-level, even more so than the Wye River talks held on Maryland's Eastern Shore last year. In the Shepherdstown talks, both the Israelis and the Syrians have brought experts in the fields of law, science and geography to aid in the discussions, Rubin said.

Jestine Rush watches from the porch of the caretaker's house at Elmwood Cemetery waiting for the presidential motorcade to pass.

Rubin said Wednesday that different committees have been set up to handle various issues in the talks. All issues are expected to be covered by the committees, which will meet in Shepherdstown for the next two days, he said.

There is still no timetable for completion of the Shepherdstown Peace Talks, Rubin said.

"I think we will take it day by day. Obviously we will stay here the rest of the week," Rubin said.

The talks are being held at the Clarion and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center about six miles away on Shepherd Grade Road.

Throughout the day, a steady stream of black vans and other vehicles traveled in and out of the Clarion's main entrance along W.Va. 480. Police kept media and the public away from the main entrance.

Rubin said it was unclear whether Clinton would return to Shepherdstown today. Albright is expected to stay in town all week, he said.

Rubin and Albright caused a stir when they ate dinner at the Yellow Brick Bank restaurant Tuesday evening as part of a party of nine, said owner Kevin Konnell.

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