WASHINGTON (Nov. 14)
The State Department suggested today that the violence over the weekend in the West Bank demonstrated the need to work toward implementing President Reagan’s September 1, 1982 peace initiative.
At the same time, Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg placed part of the blame for the unrest in the West Bank on the concern of the Palestinians there over the fighting in Tripoli between Yasir Arafat’s decimated Palestine Liberation Organization force and Syrian-backed dissident Palestinians.
“We very much regret the increased tension in the West Bank and the incidents of violence it has spawned,” Romberg said. “This unrest appears to stem from a variety of factors, including Palestinian concern over developments in Tripoli and continued friction between the local inhabitants and Israeli settlers. Such developments underscore the need for all parties to take the steps necessary to realize the promise of the President’s Middle East peace initiative.”
Reagan’s continued commitment to his peace initiative was underscored by Richard Murphy, assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, in testimony this afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.
U.S. INTENT ON DEALING WITH PEACE ISSUE
Murphy called “untrue” claims that the Administration “will avoid dealing with the sensitive issues of peace in the Middle East during an election year.” He noted that the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as President Reagan’s special representative in the Middle East “is a sign of our determination to pursue the peace process and the President’s initiative.” Rumsfeld, who is in Beirut today is on his first mission to the Middle East since his appointment was made.
Murphy stressed that the proposals made by Reagan in his peace initiative “remain the most realistic basis for progress toward reaching a fair and just solution to the Palestinian problem and resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. We are ready to pursue these proposals if a credible Arab leader — such as King Hussein — were to step forward and agree to negotiate with Israel.”
Rumsfeld is expected to meet with King Hussein who, the Administration hopes, may be more willing to go along with the negotiations now that Arafat’s forces seem to have been wiped our as a military factor. There is a belief here, not shared by all, that if the PLO falls under the control of Syria, as now seems likely, it will be seen as a threat by Hussein to his regime which has long felt threatened by Syria.
Rumsfeld is also expected to go to Damascus to see Syrian President Hafez Assad but that may depend on how soon Assad recovers from an emergency appendectomy he underwent yesterday. A meeting between Assad and Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, scheduled for today, was postponed.
TERMS SYRIA “A MAJOR OBSTACLE’
Murphy, in his testimony before the House subcommittee today, called Syria a “major obstacle to efforts to rid Lebanon of all foreign forces and to promote national accommodation on Lebanese terms.” He stressed that the U.S. does not question Syria’s “legitimate concerns” in Lebanon nor its close economic communal and personal relations with its neighboring Arab country.
“But we have told Syria … that we do oppose attempts by Syria or any nation or groups to destabilize Lebanon as it seeks to re-establish its authority over its territory beginning with arrangements to secure the withdrawal of all external forces,” Murphy declared.
He stressed that the U.S. does not accept Syria’s right to veto the May 17 Israeli-Lebanese agreement which he termed “an important step forward.” The United States calls “on Syria to agree to withdraw its forces so that Israel will withdraw and Lebanon can regain control of its territory and its own destiny,” Murphy said.