WASHINGTON (Dec. 27)
U.S. special Middle East envoy Morris Draper will be participating in the talks between Israel and Lebanon scheduled to begin tomorrow. State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said at today’s briefing.
“Ambassador Draper will be the leader of our team which will be at the table as an active participant in the talks between Lebanon and Israel. He will be joined from time to time by Ambassador (Philip) Habib,” Romberg stated. Romberg said he knew of no specific time for Habib, who is still in the United States, to return to the Middle East.
‘Romberg said that the Administration hoped the talks will proceed “to a rapid successful conclusion, leading to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, the establishment of central Lebanese government authority throughout Lebanon, and arrangements which will assure there will not be further attacks across the border into Israel.”
Romberg said the issue of normalization might well be something that Lebanon and Israel will be discussing and that the United States “has no problem with that,” and added,” it is something for the Lebanese and Israelis to work out.”
On the possibility of similar talks between Lebanon and Syria and Lebanon and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Romberg said that such talks are “very important and essential parts of the entire withdrawal process” but that he did not think the United States “has a direct role in those talks.”
With respect to press reports of contacts between Israel and the PLO, concerning prisoners of war, Romberg said “I don’t see a role, particularly, for the United States. We are concerned about the prisoners held by all the various parties but obviously, we do not have contacts with the PLO. As I understand those press reports, they suggested that Austria might be playing a mediating role.” But Romberg said he had no additional information about that possibility.