Mideast dialogue shelved

January 17, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The next round of peace talks between Syria and Israel was postponed indefinitely Monday, one day before talk participants were expected to return to Shepherdstown.

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Announcement of the indefinite suspension came from Jerusalem, where Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had been preparing to return to Shepherdstown for the second round of talks this month, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Local law enforcement agencies had met Sunday with the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of State to discuss security preparations just in case the talks went ahead as planned.

Now Shepherdstown officials don't know when future talks will be held or whether they will be held here.

"We plan about three days ahead, so we're just going to put everything on hold until they want to come back, if they want to come back," said Shepherdstown Mayor Vincent Parmesano.


"I think they're going to be held sooner or later," said Parmesano, adding that if they didn't resume, he would be disappointed.

Erwin Asam, owner of the Bavarian Inn and Lodge, said he was disappointed since the community was hoping the talks would result in a Shepherdstown Peace Accord, forever linking the town with Mideast peace.

If Syrian and Israeli dignitaries want to return to town they will be welcomed, said Asam, who also is one of the owners of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, where the last round of talks was centered.

The last round of talks here, from Jan. 3-10, provided an economic boost to the inn and other area hotels since January and February are traditionally slow times, Asam said.

All 72 rooms at the Inn had been reserved for later this week, with an estimated 70 percent booked by the media covering the peace talks, Asam said. Cancellations are streaming in, he said.

Asam said he had to turn away many guests who would have stayed for the weekend and has begun calling them back to let them know the rooms are available.

West Virginia State Police Capt. L.D. Bradley said state troopers will stay on their regular schedules, which they resumed last week after Syrian and Israeli dignitaries left the Eastern Panhandle.

During the last round of talks, the state police were "pretty strapped as far as manpower," Bradley said.

Some court hearings had to be postponed, and troopers were pulled off some investigations to provide protection for the dignitaries and President Clinton, who visited the town five times during the talks.

Shepherdstown resident Hali Taylor said she will miss the friends she made among the foreign press.

Taylor served as the town's official photographer, taking pictures behind the scenes of interaction between town residents and the media and at Shepherd College, which was transformed into a media base for press from around the world.

The pictures are expected to go on public display at the Entler Hotel in February.

It was Taylor who initiated the posting of signs around town that read Peace in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

Taylor said she realizes that peace negotiations are "extremely complicated."

"I understand people may have to step back and get a broader perspective. The leaders are in difficult situations," Taylor said.

"I'm still very hopeful."

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