JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Israeli official: are gratified by the tougher U.S. line toward Syria and what they see as a more realistic assessment by Washington of Syria’s destructive role in Lebanon.
President Reagan’s sharp warning, at his press conference last night, that the U.S. would not allow Syria “aided and abetted by 7,000 Soviet advisers and technicians” to destroy the chances for stability in Lebanon, dispelled the perception held here in recent weeks that the U.S. was tilting toward Syria in the Lebanese situation. (See related Reagan press conference story.)
U.S. special envoy Richard Fairbanks also took a firm line toward the Syrians when he met with Premier Yitzhak Shamir here this morning. Fairbanks, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, assured Shamir that Washington remained committed to a strong central government in Lebanon and the eventual withdrawal of all foreign forces from that country, He was confident that the national reconciliation talks would start next week.
They were to have begun today, but disagreement among the various parties over a site for the talks forced postponement. Reports from Beirut this morning said that all of the parties have agreed to meet in Geneva.
U.S. CONTINUES TO SUPPORT MAY 17 ACCORD
Fairbanks is, at the moment, the senior U.S. diplomat in the region. He had served as deputy to special envoy Robert McFarlane who became President Reagan’s national security adviser this week. He stressed to Shamir that the U.S. continues to support fully the Israel-Lebanon withdrawal and security agreement signed last May 17 but still not ratified by Lebanon.
His assurance in that respect was welcomed here. Israelis had been worried that U.S. policy in Lebanon was veering toward the idea that concessions to Syria by the government of President Amin Gemayel would yield cooperation from Damascus in the reconciliation process. One concession presumably would have been the abrogation of the May 17 accord with Israel.
But Reagan’s tough remarks last night indicated to officials here that the U.S. now shares Israel’s skepticism about Syrian aims in Lebanon.