WASHINGTON (Feb. 16)
Secretary of State George Shultz indicated today that the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon depended mainly on getting an agreement for the departure of Israel’s troops.
Answering questions before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Shultz said he could not predict when an agreement would be reached for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Lebanon. “The Syrians have said they would leave when the Israelis leave,” he added. “The PLO has basically said they would go along with the Syrians.”
Shultz’s comments were challenged by Rep. Ted Weiss (D. N.Y.) who charged there was an “orchestration” to blame Israel for the lack of progress in Lebanon. Shultz agreed with Weiss that there was no way of knowing that the Syrians and PLO would leave until they did so.
But he said both the Syrians and the PLO have assured Lebanon they would leave when Israel leaves. He added that while the U.S. has no direct talks with the PLO, Syria’s Foreign Minister Abdel Halim Khaddam had assured him that the Syrians would depart from Lebanon.
Shultz also indicated that one of the reasons that Lebanon does not want to conclude a peace treaty with Israel is out of fear that the Syrians would then not want to leave. He also said that the effort to reconstruct Lebanon requires the reconciliation of various “confessional” groups in that country and they have different views towards Israel.
Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R. N.Y.) suggested that the reason Lebanon did not want a peace treaty with Israel is that Saudi Arabia would then refuse to provide needed financial aid. Shultz repeated what he had told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, that various countries, including Saudi Arabia, were waiting for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon before providing foreign aid.
Shultz stressed that at the end of the war, there was the “maximum chance” for Lebanon “to put itself back together again.” He said there is need for “speed” in reaching agreement because “the longer things drag on the greater the difficulties.”
He noted that everyone was “impatient,” including the U.S., Israel and Lebanon, but there were “lots of tough issues involved” in the negotiations now being conducted. He said the U.S. agrees that Israel’s security interests in south Lebanon are “quite legitimate” concerns and are “worth the care and effort” being given them in the negotiations.
Shultz repeatedly stressed that the Lebanese situation was separate from the overall peace process. “The fundamental priority has to be the basic peace process,” he stressed. But he noted that the peace process has affected the situation in Lebanon. He said the deterioration of Lebanon came about because of the problem of Israel’s security and the “rights and aspirations” of the Palestinians have not been addressed.
THE ISSUE OF F-16′S TO ISRAEL
Rep. Lee Hamilton(D. Ind.) said there was a need now for additional steps in the peace process from the Administration. Shultz did not reply to Hamilton’s suggestion that he go to the Middle East. However, there have been reports that Shultz may make his first visit to the Middle East as Secretary of State in March.
Rep. Dante Fascell (D. Fla.) suggested that the Administration, by holding up the delivery of F-16′s to Israel, was not keeping its commitment to maintain the qualitative and quantitative military effectiveness of Israel. He said this was especially troublesome in view of the Soviet supplies to the Arab countries, particularly the SAM-5s to Syria.
Shultz replied that the delivery of the F-16s is “under consideration by the President.” He added that its hard to believe Israel feels threatened by anyone. However, he said that the delivery of the SAM-5s and their accompaniment by Soviet technicians was of concern.
CORRECTION: Due to a garbled transmission from Paris, a story in the February 15 Bulletin, P.3 about the village of Izieu stated that the couple who took over the children’s home opposed a plaque. It should have stated the couple proposed a plaque and maintained one.