- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2000

A walk to the office

Adm. Joseph Prueher, the U.S. ambassador to China, walked to work yesterday.

He was accompanied by his wife, but no security guards. He wanted to prove a point.

A year after mobs surrounded the U.S. Embassy to protest the accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, all was calm in the Chinese capital.

"We've got a nice, quiet spring day in Beijing, for which we are grateful," Mr. Prueher told the Associated Press.

Last year, protesters threw rocks, chunks of concrete and jars of ink at the embassy. They shattered windows and held former Ambassador James Sasser a virtual prisoner in the embassy for days.

"It's an event that neither the people in the United States, nor the people in China can forget," Adm. Prueher said. "This is an event that occurred that is part of the fabric now of the U.S.-China relationship. So we must deal with it."

Crucial time for peace

Israelis and Palestinians are entering a "crucial" period in Middle East peace talks that could be derailed at any time by terrorist attacks, a top U.S. diplomat told the Anti-Defamation League yesterday.

Ned Walker, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, noted that "tremendous progress has been made over the past several years."

However, "gaps remain on all tracks," he said, referring to separate Israeli talks with Palestinians and Syrians.

"The threat of violence by terrorists, or rejectionists, bent on destroying the peace process is a real and present danger."

The Clinton administration is hoping for a September breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian talks, said Mr. Walker, a former ambassador to both Israel and Egypt.

Mr. Walker said the two sides are approaching a "decisive phase" in the peace process.

"The next six to eight weeks could be crucial," he said.

"Israelis and Palestinians are committed to reaching a framework agreement as soon as possible, and a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues by September 13th."

However, the latest news from Israel showed the two sides are still stuck in discussions over land concessions to the Palestinians and resistance within Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government to the deal.

A two-day summit between Mr. Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ended without progress on Palestinian demands for all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its undivided capital.

Mr. Walker said both sides "are going to have to make tough decisions … . Neither can expect to get 100 percent of what it seeks. And that fact entails risks for both sides."

One of the greatest risks for Israel is negotiating a return of the strategic Golan Heights to Syria.

"We recognize that only an agreement that enhances Israel's security will be acceptable to Israelis and, therefore, to us," he said.

"At the same time, a way must be found to meet the needs of the Syrian side as well."

South Africa visit

South African President Thabo Mbeki will make a state visit to Washington on May 22, the White House said yesterday.

President Clinton and Mr. Mbeki will "reaffirm the growing partnership between the United States and South Africa and the warm friendship between the two leaders," the White House said.

Straight talk needed

Mexican Ambassador Jesus Reyes-Heroles is calling for frank and open talks between his country and the United States to improve the bilateral relationship.

He also believes Mexico must raise its standard of living to ensure political stability.

Mr. Reyes-Heroles outlined his hopes for the future of U.S.-Mexican ties at a two-day conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center last week.

"The best service we can do to improve the relationship between Mexico and the United States is to promote an informed and analytical discussion of issues of mutual concern, regardless of the positions each one may have."

He also highlighted the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement to Mexico and expressed hope that NAFTA will help improve Mexico's development.

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