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Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 08:44 GMT
Clinton's speech in full
The Golan Heights: At the heart of the talks

President Clinton has announced that Israel and Syria are to resume peace talks in Washington next week, after a break of almost four years. The following is the full text of his televised speech given at the State Department:

"We are at a pivotal moment in the Middle East peace process, one that can shape the face of the region for generations to come.

Middle East
"As I have said on numerous occasions, history will not forgive a failure to seize this opportunity to achieve a comprehensive peace.

"We've made good progress on the Palestinian track, and I'm determined to help Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Chairman Yasser Arafat move forward in accordance with their very ambitious timetable.

President Bill Clinton makes a televised speech President Clinton: Courageous decisions needed
"We have also been working intensely for months for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria.

"Today I am pleased to announce that Prime Minister Barak and President Hafez al- Assad have agreed that the Israel-Syrian peace negotiations will be resumed from the point where they left off.

"The talks will be launched here in Washington next week with Prime Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara.

"After an initial round for one or two days, they will return to the region and intensive negotiations will resume at a site to be determined soon thereafter.

"These negotiations will be high-level, comprehensive, and conducted with the aim of reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

Heavy responsibility

"Israelis and Syrians still need to make courageous decisions in order to reach a just and lasting peace. But today's step is a significant breakthrough, for it will allow them to deal with each other face to face, and that is the only way to get there.

"I want to thank Prime Minister Barak and President Assad for their willingness to take this important step.

"And I want to thank Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who has worked very hard on this and, as you know, has been in the region and meeting with the leaders as we have come to this conclusion.

"Before us is a task as clear as it is challenging. As I told Prime Minister Barak and President Assad in phone conversations with them earlier today, they now bear a heavy responsibility of bringing peace to the Israeli and Syrian people.

Help on Palestinian track

"On the Palestinian track, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat are committed to a rapid timetable: a framework agreement by mid-February, a permanent status agreement by mid-September.

"I'm convinced it is possible to achieve that goal - to put an end to a generation of conflicts, to realise the aspirations of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people - and I will do everything I can to help them in that historic endeavour.

"It is my hope that with the resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks negotiations between Israel and Lebanon also will soon begin.

"There can be no illusion here. On all tracks the road ahead will be arduous, the task of negotiating agreements will be difficult.

Hard choices

"Success is not inevitable. Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese will have to confront fateful questions. They face hard choices.

"They will have to stand firmly against all those who seek to derail the peace - and sadly there are still too many of them.

"But let there also be no misunderstanding. We have a truly historic opportunity now. With a comprehensive peace, Israel will live in a safe, secure and recognised border for the first time in its history.

Peace and prosperity

"The Palestinian people will be able to forge their own destiny on their own land.

"Syrians and Lebanese will fulfil their aspirations and enjoy the full fruits of peace.

"And throughout the region, people will be able to build more peaceful and, clearly, more prosperous lives.

"As I have said and I say one more time: I will spare neither time nor effort in pursuit of that goal.

"Today the parties have given us clear indication that they, too, are willing to take that path.

"Peace has long been within our sight. Today, it is within our grasp, and we must seize it."

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See also:
24 Mar 99 |  Middle East
Syrian brides cross Israeli border
30 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Golan feels winds of change
23 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Profile: President Assad of Syria
08 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Israel and Syria to restart talks

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