WASHINGTON (Aug. 22)
Secretary of State George Shultz said he was confident that the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization from the port of Beirut would continue as scheduled despite the hitch that developed today.
Shultz, appearing on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” program confirmed reports from Beirut that Israel had blocked a Cyprus-bound vessel with PLO evacuees because they had jeeps and other military equipment aboard.
Nevertheless, Shultz said U.S. negotiator Philip Habib was in the process of working to resolve the dispute and said it was not the first problem to arise and “I’m sure it won’t be the last and we expect it to get resolved.” He said he expected it to be resolve resolved today. It was several hours later.
At the same time, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger charged that Israel had no right to block the departure of the ship from Beirut, contending that the port “is supposed to be under the control of the French.” Appearing on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program, Weinberger described the problem as a “little glitch. Twenty jeeps seem to be the major part of the dispute,” Weinberger said, adding, “Its a lawyers dispute.”
Shultz, questioned today on a number of Middle East issues, including the stalled autonomy negotiations and Israeli settlement policy on the West Bank, refused to be drawn into criticism of Israel. He said he did not want to leave “a tone that all problems” in the region are “created by Israel.”
He said, for example, that Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank is “not constructive,” a phase which he said has been amplified before by President Reagan. When pressed for his opinion of the settlement policy, Shultz said he agreed with the President.
The Secretary of State, in his first television interview since taking office, said that Israel continued to remain a true friend and ally of the United States. “I believe,” Shultz said, “that in all the things that we do, we must be always cognizant and careful about the security of Israel.”
At a press conference Friday, Shultz also said that despite the Israeli action in Lebanon, U.S.-Israel rela- tions remain strong. “We are completely committed to the support of the security of Israel.” But he acknowledged that there were “strains” in relations between the two countries during the past two months and “there were some occasions when it seemed to us that the Israeli military actions were excessive and we said so.” However, Shultz added: “Underneath it all, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel remains a strong one.”
He also said at his press conference, that there was “no question” that relations between the U.S. and the Arab states had been strained “as they have seen the suffering in Lebanon and the great destruction in Beirut.”
‘IDEAS’ FOR REVIVING AUTONOMY TALKS
While Shultz, in his TV interview, would not detail what he termed the Administration’s “ideas” toward reviving the long-stalled negotiations for Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said that for there to be a “genuine peaceful outcome” that is widely accepted in the region, other countries would have to be involved in the negotiations. He would not clarify which other countries would be needed to participate or how they would be brought into the peace process.
Shultz said the Camp David framework along with UN Resolutions 242 and 338, the bedrock of U.S. policy toward the Middle East, continue to be an “ample basis and a good basis for any ongoing negotiations.” He pointed out that Richard Fairbanks, a State Department official, continues to provide assistance on the negotiating issue and said that it remains to be seen whether he would appoint anyone as a special U.S. negotiator to the autonomy talks when they are revived.
CAMP DAVID CAN BE INTERPRETED IN MANY WAYS
Shultz said that success in the negotiations “involved delicate interplay between the processes that are involved and the substance you are trying to achieve.” He said the Camp David process can be interpreted in many ways and that negotiations were crucial for a resolution.
He added that the Palestinians should have a role in determining the conditions under which they live, obliquely referring to some form of Palestinian participation in the negotiating process.
At his press conference last Friday, Shultz also said the Administration was forming its own views on the issue of Palestinian self-rule on the West Bank. He said the Camp David process had “lots of room for ideas.”
He said “the prospects for peace, particularly in the light of the conflict in Lebanon…. should convince people that if there is any genuine prospect for peace it should be seized, and perhaps that would be an incentive for everyone to give and take and try to construct something that might work.”
Shultz said Friday that the Syrians promised to leave when asked to do so by the Lebanese. He indicated that the process will take time and that the Administration is seeking a process whereby the Lebanese government “increasingly takes control.”
The Secretary of State, who succeeded Alexander Haig on July 16, described Habib as a “truly great American” and we “owe him a wonderful debt of thanks.”
President Reagan sent a telegram to Habib on Friday after a Rose Garden Press conference, praising his envoy for his efforts in achieving a settlement to the Beirut crisis. “Yours is truly a sterling achievement,” the President said. “You have succeeded against staggering odds.”
Earlier, Reagan said that the 800 marines who will participate in the evacuation of PLO forces from Beirut will play a “carefully limited non-combatant role.” He said if the marines are shot at they would be removed immediately. “In no case will our troops stay longer than 30 days,” he said.
Reagan said the withdrawal “will set the stage for the urgent international action required to restore Lebanon’s full sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, obtain a rapid withdrawal of all foreign forces from that country, and help ensure the security of northern Israel.” He called for swift action under the Camp David peace process to “resolve the Palestinian issue in all its aspects.”