WASHINGTON (Jan. 27)
President Reagan and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, after a two-hour meeting at the White House today, declared that there was a “full partnership” between the U.S. and Egypt in efforts to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace and to restore Lebanon’s “territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty.”
In his farewell remarks to Mubarak at the diplomatic entrance to the White House facing the South Lawn, Reagan did not mention Israel directly. But Mubarak in his departure statement did, calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon and declaring that the settlements on the West Bank were a “serious obstacle” to the peace efforts. He urged Israel to freeze its settlement activities.
Mubarak also urged his fellow Arabs, particularly Jordan and the Palestinians, to join the peace process. “I believe that a golden opportunity exists and it would be a grave mistake to miss it,” he said.
On Lebanon, Reagan stressed that the restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty requires that “there must be an early withdrawal of all foreign forces,” a reference to the Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces as well as Israel’s. Mubarak, however, stressed that “top priority must be given to the withdrawal of Israeli forces. Upon achieving that, other aspects of the problem would be easier,” he said.
A Senior Administration official explained later that there is a belief in Egypt as well as in Washington that if Israel agrees to withdraw from Lebanon, an agreement for Syrian and PLO withdrawal will follow quickly. The official said Mubarak assured Reagan that once there is an agreement for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the Egyptian Ambassador would return to Tel Aviv. Mubarak also said Egypt is committed to its peace treaty with Israel, the official said.
But the official noted that while Mubarak is encouraged that there is progress on President Reagan’s peace initiative, failure of movement in Lebanon could have a negative impact on it. He said the Egyptians believe the U.S. has influence on Israel and should use that influence to persuade Israel to leave Lebanon, since a continued Israeli presence would make it difficult for Arab governments, such as King Hussein’s, to join the peace process.
The official noted that Reagan also stressed he was impatient to have the Lebanon situation resolved.
Reagan thanked Mubarak for his support of the peace initiative since the President announced it last September I. He said their two countries would work together for a comprehensive peace agreement that would “permit all the states in the region to live in peace while meeting the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”
Mubarak, however, said “the centrality of the Palestinian problem” in the Middle East conflict is “self-evident” and urged the U.S. to do more to support “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.” The Administration official said later that the Camp David agreements and the Reagan initiative provided adequate means for the Palestinians to express their rights.