- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

JORDAN

Canal studied to raise Dead Sea

AMMAN — Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to proceed with a feasibility study of a $2 billion to $4 billion project to raise the depth of the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel with water from the Red Sea, officials report.

They said a tripartite meeting, attended by World Bank officials, agreed to seek bids soon for a World Bank-sponsored feasibility study of the project to reverse an 82-foot drop in the level of the Dead Sea over the past century. France, the United States, the Netherlands and Japan have indicated willingness to contribute to the cost of the two-year study.

Officials said Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are committed to a 110-mile “Two Seas Canal,” despite stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth’s surface, has been shrinking because of heavy use of water upstream from its main source, the Jordan River.

SYRIA

Dutch minister works on relations

DAMASCUS — Netherlands Foreign Minister Ben Bot held talks with Syria’s leadership yesterday in the European Union’s latest opening toward Damascus as the U.S. works to isolate the country.

Mr. Bot, who arrived overnight Monday for a brief visit, and Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri discussed coordination on regional issues and efforts to boost ties between their countries, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported. The Dutch foreign minister also held talks with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, before meeting with President Bashar Assad.

TURKEY

Delay ‘unfair’ on EU accession

ANKARA — Turkey yesterday denounced as “unfair” the European Union’s decision to slow down its troubled accession talks, but pledged to stick to the path of reform to catch up with EU standards.

Turkish leaders accused the 25-member bloc of “lacking vision” on this secular Muslim nation’s role in East-West relations and urged Brussels to throw its weight behind efforts to resolve the Cyprus conflict, at the core of the current turmoil.

EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels late Monday to freeze Turkey’s accession talks in eight of the 35 policy areas candidates must complete, in response to Ankara’s refusal to open its sea and air ports to Cyprus under a customs-union accord.

Weekly notes …

British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a blistering attack on Iran yesterday, calling it a “significant strategic threat” to the whole Middle East, as he prepared to travel to the region. Mr. Blair branded as “revisionist” a conference being held by Tehran on the Holocaust, calling it “shocking beyond belief.” Mr. Blair’s outburst seemed to pour cold water on Western hopes of persuading Tehran to join talks on the future of its neighbor Iraq, as suggested by last week’s U.S. Iraq Study Group report. … Achieving peace in the Middle East will not be possible without involving Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday. She spoke a week after Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier went to Damascus for talks, despite objections from Israel, the United States and France. “Syria is simply … a partner in the region … and it is important that we tell Syria what expectations we have of it,” Mrs. Merkel told the foreign press association in Berlin.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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