Secretary of State James Baker consulted with Jordanian officials Friday after Syrian leaders said they were determined to pursue a "just and comprehensive settlement" to the region's troubles.
Baker and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa talked with reporters in Damascus earlier Friday, as the secretary wrapped up a weeklong trip to the Middle East."We agree that there's a window of opportunity here to move the peace process forward and that we should try not to miss that window," Baker said. He said he felt he had made some progress toward opening talks aimed at bringing peace to the region.
"The Syrians indicated to us that there are many elements in the proposals which we discussed which they found positive," Baker said before departing for Geneva. "There are other (points), however, where the two of us are not in agreement." He did not elaborate.
Syria still wants the United Nations to play a significant role in Middle East peace talks but stopped short of rejecting an Israeli plan that would bypass the world body, the foreign minister said.
He said his government and the United States were determined to pursue a "just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian problem."
Baker also met with international relief officials, who said the secretary of state told them Iran has agreed to let U.S. humanitarian flights land on its territory.
Baker said the Americans have permission to transport humanitarian aid, said Paer Stenbaeck, head of the 147-nation League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Iran says it has some 950,000 Iraqi refugees on its soil, while Turkey has about 400,000.
It was Baker's second trip to the Mideast in a month, and he apparently made enough headway to begin planning a return trip to deal with the unsettled issues.
"We're not going to solve it with one trip, or even two trips, overnight," Baker said. "We're just not going to."
Baker arrived Thursday carrying an Israeli proposal for a U.S.-sponsored regional peace conference with Soviet participation. Syria had insisted in the past that such a conference convene under U.N. auspices.
Before meeting with Assad, Baker said he felt he had made some progress toward getting Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians to the bargaining table for regional peace talks.
"But there's still a lot that has to be done," he added. "It's a long road we have to travel, and we hope people wouldn't, therefore, rush to judgment."