President Hafez al-Assad of Syria was reported by Israeli officials Friday to have agreed to establish relations with Israel in return for getting back the Golan Heights, which his country lost in war 28 years ago.
The officials said Assad had told Secretary of State Warren Christopher two weeks ago that he would allow Israel to maintain “a low-level diplomatic representation” in Damascus even before it completes a withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Until now, Assad has not publicly budged from his insistence Israel remove its armed forces and civilian settlements from the strategic plateau before he would consider steps like diplomatic ties.
His shift in attitude was confirmed by a spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, after it had been reported by the newspaper Yediot Ahronot.
The newspaper also reported that Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had told Christopher in mid-March they were prepared to “go all the way” with Syria, by withdrawing fully from the Golan if the Syrians meet Israel’s demands for security arrangements and diplomatic relations.