- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

Light in tunnel

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry said his country is determined to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority but is under no illusions about the risks.

"The final stages of the road to peace are full of obstacles. But with good will and determination on both sides, we can reach our destination," he said in a speech this week to the Young Leadership Conference of the United Jewish Community.

He noted that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting at Bolling Air Force Base with the goal of reaching a "framework agreement by May."

Mr. Ivry also said he is optimistic that peace talks with Syria will resume soon.

"Despite setbacks on the Syrian track, we are increasingly optimistic that we will return to the negotiating table. President Clinton is expected to hold a summit with [Syrian] President [Hafez] Assad this Sunday in Geneva," Mr. Ivry said.

"The light at the end of the tunnel may be growing stronger. We hope and pray that it is not the light of an oncoming train."

Mr. Ivry said both sides have a duty to future generations to secure peace and stability in the Middle East.

"We have a moral obligation to pursue peace so that the children of the region will never again know war," he said.

"An agreement with Syria may require painful sacrifices. But I assure you that the deal we sign will enhance, not weaken, Israel's national security. To accomplish this, Israel will need to bolster its strategic relationship with the United States."

Mr. Ivry would not discuss any details of the aid package Israel wants from the United States to help pay for the withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Golan Heights. Israel has estimated the price tag could be as high as $17 billion.

"This is not an assistance package," the ambassador insisted. "It is a risk reduction package. Israel's military superiority, together with secure peace agreements, will advance Israel's and America's interests in the region."

He urged his audience to prepare to rally support in Congress for the package.

"Once the package is presented, we will need your lobbying expertise," Mr. Ivry said. "The united voice of the Jewish community must be heard to guarantee bipartisan support for this effort."

Embassy alerts

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal has warned Americans about traveling through the capital, Katmandu, next week to avoid "public agitation" by leftist political parties.

In Washington, the State Department told U.S. citizens to expect "rallies, torchlight marches, demonstrations" and roadblocks.

"In the past, rock-throwing and confrontations with the police have been associated with these events," the department said in a statement this week.

The State Department is also urging Americans in Costa Rica to take extra precautions when they travel through the country next week because of possible labor union and student demonstrations.

Protesters this week blocked major highways in the capital, San Jose, to express opposition to government reform plans in the electrical and telecommunications sectors.

"The protests have been largely peaceful, although some demonstrators have been injured and others detained by local security forces," the department said.

"Further demonstrations or strikes could occur at any time."

The department advised Americans to keep their cars at least half filled with gasoline in case the protests disrupt fuel deliveries.

Appeal for Bolshoi

The Russian Embassy is seeking financial support for major repairs to the 144-year-old Bolshoi Theater, one of Europe's oldest opera houses.

The "magnificent building," built in 1856, "is in need of major renovations," the embassy said this week.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Russian government have started a fund-raising campaign that will include a "traveling exhibition" on the Bolshoi, the embassy said.

Donations should be identified as "for the Bolshoi campaign" and sent to UNESCO's bank account, No. 949-1-19155 at the Chase Manhattan Bank N.A., International Monetary Transfer Division, 4 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11245.

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