KIRYAT SHMONA (Dec. 30)
Israeli, Lebanese and American negotiators sat down at this border town today for the second round of talks aimed at defining Israel’s future relations with Lebanon.
The actual working session was brief. A communique issued later said progress had been made and “some differences were resolved and others were narrowed.” The talks move back to Khalde in Lebanon next week.
Much at the time today was occupied with ceremonials. The Israelis stressed, particularly for the benefit of the Lebanese news media here in force Kiryat Shmona’s powerful symbolic value in the context of peace talks. David Kimche, head of the Israeli delegation, said it was “no accident” that this border town was selected as the Israeli site for the talks.
“This town and its brave people symbolized for us the threat of the terrorist presence in Lebanon, the repeated shellings and Katyusha rocket bombardments and the necessity to remove that threat,” he said.
The Israeli, Lebanese and American delegations were welcomed to Kiryat Shmona with the traditional bread-and-salt ceremony. They thanked Mayor Reuven Robert and the town council for their hospitality. The chief of the Lebanese delegation, Antoine Fatale, appeared genuinely moved and responded warmly to the greetings.
But the talks themselves did not appear to accelerate. An agenda remains to be agreed on by both parties and Israeli sources said they did not expect this to be accomplished today.
JOINT COMMUNIQUE ISSUED
The joint communique on behalf of the three delegations was read by Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Avi Pazner. It said; “Negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, with the participation of the United States, continued today with the review of the positions of Lebanon and Israel. We continued our discussions about setting up an agenda for the talks. Further progress was made. Some differences were resolved and others were narrowed. The discussions will continue at our next meeting on Monday in Kholde.”
Pazner stressed that the atmosphere was “friendly and cordial” but refused to say on what precise points progress was made. The Israeli delegation is under instructions from the Cabinet to stand firm on Israel’s demand that normalization of relations with Lebanon be the key item. But Israel will not insist that the term “normalization” must be used.
The Lebanese priority is the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. They have agreed to consider termination of the state of war and security arrangements for Israel.