U.S. ASKS PAUSE IN MIDEAST TALKS GOLAN HEIGHTS SORE POINT

Combined wire services
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Tuesday, November 5, 1991

American officials said Monday that there would have to be a pause before reconvening the next round of Middle East peace talks to allow the negotiators time to consider their positions and enable the United States to find a new meeting place.


And, because of the failure of Syria and Israel to make any headway in their direct talks, which ended before dawn Monday, officials who were part of Secretary of State James A. Baker III's contingent said they would probably have to come up with ideas of their own to break the impasse. The U.S. announcement came as Israeli officials and Soviet immigrants inaugurated a new Jewish settlement in the Golan Heights, pledging never to return the disputed land despite historic attempts at negotiations.


The ceremony took place just hours after Israel and Syria concluded a first round of face-to-face talks in Madrid that left the two sides sharply divided over issues including the Golan Heights.


The Syrians continue to offer to make peace with Israel only after Israel returns the plateau captured in the 1967 war. Israel considers it not only a security blanket but the source of half the country's water supply, and doesn't want to give it back.


The inauguration had been scheduled for last week, but the government asked organizers to postpone it a few days so it would not coincide with the opening of the Middle East peace conference in Madrid.


About 20 families of Soviet immigrants - most of them middle-aged professionals who have found it difficult to master Hebrew and who are either unemployed or working at menial labor - are the first inhabitants of Kela. The right-wing Likud Party has promised the new residents free rent for at least a year on the former kibbutz and army base where a family of four is allotted a one-room apartment the size of a college dormitory room.


Israel captured the strategic area from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in 1981. About 12,000 Jewish settlers, including 1,000 Soviet immigrants, have moved to the sparsely populated Golan, between northeastern Israel and Syria.


"Every new settlement, every Jew ... enlarges our grip (on the land)," said Science Minister Yuval Neeman, whose Tehiya Party has threatened to withdraw from the government in protest of the Madrid talks.


Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, who greeted 36 Kela settlers and about 200 guests, also ridiculed the peace conference. "We are longing for a small handshake, a second-long eye contact, a slight smile from this band of murderers which sits beyond the security fence and continues to fool us," he said in reference to Syria.


Under Sharon, 1,500 housing units have been started on the Golan this year, with a similar number planned for 1992. About 108,000 Israelis live the occupied West Bank, and about 4,000 in the Gaza Strip. There is a total of 142 Jewish settlements in the two areas, home to about 1.7 million Palestinians.


Unlike the talks between Israel and the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, which agreed to discuss Palestinian self-rule, there was no such accord between the representatives of Syria and Israel.


The only mildly encouraging development was a departure statement by the Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al-Sharaa, who said he believed that the Israeli people wanted peace but that their government was blocking the way.


"I think the Israelis as a people desire peace," he said. "They are looking for peace. Israel is a special case, where the government is more hawkish than the people. In the Arab world, it is just the opposite. We are more flexible than the Arab people."


The Syrian official spoke to reporters after five hours of direct talks with Israeli representatives. Both sides said that these first contacts had made no progress but also said they were committed to continuing direct talks when and if they could agree on a site.


Israeli officials Monday focused gleefully on the apparent divisions in the Arab camp at the Mideast peace conference, and Egypt's president said progress made at the gathering validated his nation's long-standing peace with Israel.


Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in an interview with Israel television, was asked if he would consider halting settlements in the occupied territories in return for Palestinians ending their uprising against Israeli rule.


"I did not hear of such a proposal, but I think that there is no connection between the issues. The intefadah has to end and the settlements do not have to end," he said.


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would not visit Jerusalem as long as Israel keeps control of the Arab eastern sector of the city.


But he also said the conference's outcome showed the Arab world that his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, took the right approach when he signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.


The Israelis want discussions to alternate between towns in their country and in Arab lands. The Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese want them held in Madrid, under the umbrella of this conference, or in some other neutral site outside the Mideast. It is expected that Baker will invite the negotiating parties to Washington sometime in the next month.


In Washington, U.S. and Arab officials said two sites where historic Arab-Israeli peace accords were signed - Washington and the Greek island of Rhodes - are the compromise U.S.-Soviet choices for the next round of face-to- face Arab-Israeli negotiations.


Washington was the site of the 1978 Camp David talks that paved the way for the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The first Arab- Israeli negotiations ever held took place on Rhodes where an armistice was signed ending the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.


Nabil Osman, the minister-counselor at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, said in an interview that "the co-sponsors (the United States and the Soviet Union) will put their feet down in the next few days and say we are inviting you to this or that place and that's it."


Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem and a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid conference, said Monday that Baker had also discussed Washington as the most probable compromise but said it would not be announced for two weeks for security reasons.


Freij also said the face-to-face talks would begin during the last week of November.


Compiled from reports by New York Times, Associated Press and the Times Union Washington Bureau.