Syria Is Dragging Its Feet on Full Ties, Peres Charges : Mideast: Israel will not give up Golan Heights without better relations, the foreign minister says. He also warns Arafat on honoring peace pact.


Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres complained Wednesday that Syria has refused to commit itself to full diplomatic relations and open borders in its peace talks with Israel and indicated that his government will not withdraw from the Golan Heights for anything less.

Peres, who met with Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Warren Christopher during a visit to Washington, also warned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that he risks destroying his agreement with Israel over autonomy for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho by continuing to quibble about its provisions.

At a meeting with reporters, Peres was asked whether Israel had committed itself to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which was captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

He responded: "Do the Syrians suggest opening (negotiations) by having a full-fledged peace with Israel? Do they suggest having a full arrangement on security? No. They say peace without embassies, without open frontiers."

Syria and Israel have exchanged proposals for a peace agreement for the last month, using Christopher as a go-between. Syria has hinted unofficially that it is willing to consider full peace with Israel but has not changed its official position.

In January, after meeting with Syrian President Hafez Assad, President Clinton said that the Syrian leader told him he was ready to seek full peace, including normal diplomatic relations. But Assad refused to confirm that in public and said such issues need to be negotiated.

Peres also said he considers "irrelevant" a decree by Arafat canceling Israeli laws in Jericho and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian areas from which Israel has withdrawn.

"You cannot sit down, reach an agreement on the declaration of principles and then go around and declare different things," he warned. "If you devaluate a word of an agreement, you kill the peaceful solution.

"We worked so hard to reach the declaration, and the test of the two sides is to remain true in letter and spirit to the declaration of principles," he added.

Christopher, speaking at the beginning of his meeting with Peres, said he believes that Arafat should reaffirm the commitments he made to Israel in their agreement on Jericho and Gaza earlier this month.

"Commitments have been made. It is very important that they be lived up to. I think it would be very helpful to have a reaffirmation," he said.

Arafat has made several statements that cast doubt on his intention to remain faithful to the accord, under which Israel agreed to turn Jericho and Gaza over to the PLO in exchange for assurances that it would retain ultimate security control over the areas.

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