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Previous US-Soviet Mideast peace initiatives never got off the ground

The Soviets have usually stayed on the sidelines of the Middle East peace process. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Soviets and Americans have launched two joint efforts. But neither of the initiatives got off the ground. They were:

The Geneva conference of December 1973. Acting under United Nations auspices, the United States and Soviet Union invited Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Israel to attend. After two days the conference, which Syria boycotted, split up into working groups for discussion on specific issues. But the differences in opinion were too wide for any constructive dialogue to take place.

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Some observers say the Geneva conference served as a smoke screen for US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's ``shuttle diplomacy,'' which pushed the Soviets out of the peace process. Dr. Kissinger negotiated two troop disengagement accords between the Israelis and Egyptians, in January 1974 and September 1975.

The US-Soviet declaration of Oct. 1, 1977, which listed principles and objectives of a new Geneva conference. The Israelis rejected the declaration, which said that the conference should guarantee ``the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.'' Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who had expelled Soviet military advisers in 1972, was also upset. He said the Soviets had been readmitted to a position of influence in the Mideast.

Soon thereafter, on Nov. 19, a frustrated Mr. Sadat took matters into his own hands and made his historic trip to Israel. The stage was set for the Camp David peace process. Geneva had been supplanted, leaving the Soviets out in the cold once again.

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