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Public Statements

Foreign Travel

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SPECTER. It has been my custom to make a report to the Congress and my constituents and the general public when I return from a trip, which I did on July 11, having started on July 3, and having visited the Czech Republic, Israel, Syria, and Croatia. I will ask at the conclusion of my comments the full text of my prepared statement be printed in the Record.

A few supplementary comments about my visits to Israel and Syria: The Mideast peace process is of enormous importance, not only to that region but to U.S. national security interests and to the interest of peace in the world. The Palestinian track seems to be stuck with the controversies over the neighborhoods, also referred to as the settlements. But the administration is hard at work through special envoy former Senator George Mitchell moving ahead on that line.

I believe the time is ripe now for movement on the Israel-Syria track. I say that based on the conversations I had with Israeli and Syrian officials. I was invited to come to Damascus. I have been to Syria on many occasions in the past, starting in 1984. I have been there some 19 times. This was the first time that I received a specific invitation from President Bashar al-Assad to come there. I believe that is an indication, which President Assad is very open about, of his interest in having peace talks with Israel without preconditions.

He immediately follows that with a statement that Syria has a right to the Golan Heights. But it is no surprise that this is being asserted from the Syrian point of view.

Only Israel should decide for itself whether it wishes to trade the Golan for other national security interests, for concerns about Hezbollah and Hamas and the link with Iran--whatever effect there may be with the Iranian-Syrian relationship and the stabilization of Lebanon. But it is a different world today than it was in 1967 in an era of rockets, so the security interests are very different.

The Israelis and the Syrians came very close to a peace agreement in 1995 and again in the year 2000. Turkey had been brokering talks between Israel and Syria, but the Turkish envoys have withdrawn after the so-called flotilla incident, asking Israel for an apology. Since none is forthcoming, the Turks are not brokering that issue. So it seems to me with the role the United States played, the very active role of former President Clinton--with U.S. participation I believe the prospects are good and there could be a treaty there.

Israel has significant potential gains--to stop the shelling by Hamas from the south and the threat and potential shelling from Hezbollah from the north, and also the relationship between Syria and Iran. President Assad said to me that Iran supports Syria, but Syria does not support Iran. With the recent action by Syria in changing the veiling requirement, it is an indication that Syria is pursuing being a secular state with significant differences from the practices in Iran. If it should become the national interest of Syria to side with the West, that is a potential which ought to be explored. It is not going to happen overnight, but it is something worth thinking about and worth considering.

I now ask unanimous consent that the full text of my prepared statement be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record


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