Did the U.S. Broker Israel-Syria Talks?

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PARIS: While violence has tightened the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, it appears that the U.S. may have prodded progress in Israel's relations with Syria, just in time for Secretary of State Albright's Middle East mission. "It would make sense that the U.S. did a lot of head-butting to make sure she isn't embarrassed," says TIME Middle East reporter Scott MacLeod, responding to reports that a top advisor to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu met somewhere in Europe Tuesday with a Syrian counterpart — reports denied by Israel.

The Israel-Syria track of the Middle East peace process skidded to a halt in May 1996, when Netanyahu came to power and swore never to meet Syria's chief condition for peace: Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. But after a particularly brutal year for Israeli forces patrolling its self-declared "security zone" in south Lebanon — where Syria has sufficient influence to damp down anti-Israeli activities — there may be some room for negotiation.