WASHINGTON (Jul. 26)
The United States is not about to announce a bilateral defense pact with Israel (as has been reported in the press) and “no such study is under way,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy stated yesterday in testimony before the Hamiltion Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Murphy was asked by subcommittee chairman Rep. Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.) whether there are talks between the U.S. and Israel on how to counter the Soviet Union in the region, referring to talks under the joint political-military group. Murphy replied:
“Those talks which have gone two rounds — one in January and one in July, the first in Washington, the second in Israel — have been carrying out what the President announced last November when he described the creation of the group, which is to study possible ways of cooperation and our mutual security interest, giving priority attention to the threat posed by increased Soviet activity in the region.”
Murphy added, “We are concerned about the influence gained by the Soviet Union through its major arms supplies to Syrians; they have made major supplies through Iraq.”
Asked whether the U.S. and Israel are engaged in contingency planning, he said that the two governments have discussed possible joint exercises but that the only agreement that has been made public is for joint medical exercises, he stated.
PROGESS IN LEBANON ASSESSED
Assessing progress in Lebanon, Murphy stated, “There are welcome signs that the Lebanese government is having some success in addressing the many problems before it and that the various political factions are beginning to come together. The United States has strongly backed efforts to form a more broadly-based government and to undertake the internal reforms needed for reconciliation between Lebanon’s warring factions. We hope the government will make further progress toward restoring stability and security.”
SAYS SYRIA IS A ‘HELPFUL PLAYER’
Regarding the role of Syria Murphy said: “We believe that Syria has been one of the helpful players in these recent developments. We also believe that Lebanon needs peaceful cooperative relations with both Syria and Israel. No lasting solution is possible which fails to take into account the interests of both of these important neighbors. We will continue to encourage Lebanon to deal directly with Israel on the issue of Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon and security arrangements along their border.” (See related story.)
CITES JORDAN’S ROLE
Murphy added, “With Jordan, we continue to enjoy productive relations on many levels. As befits friends, we have maintained an ongoing dialogue on many issues: Jordanian security and economic development; the Iran/Iraq war and stability in the Gulf; and prospects for broader peace in the area. Jordan has maintained its continuing interest in seeking a political solution to the conflict with Israel.”
Murphy reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment “to seeking progress toward a just and lasting peace wherever progress is possible. We also remain committed to the positions in the President’s initiative of September 1, 1982.”
FUTURE OF THE PEACE PROCESS
Murphy was asked by the Congressmen whether “the peace process now is in abeyance until after our election.” He replied that U.S. policy has been to support opportunities to achieve movement in the peace process, but he added, “I think our elections are a major factor in the calculations of the parties.”
Murphy stated that the “next step as visualized by the Administration is to broaden the talks to include Jordan and represent the Palestinians … in the overall peace process. That remains probably the next essential step. How to create that framework for that step to be possible, remains to be seen.”
Asked whether the Camp David framework for the peace talks were still viable, Murphy stated, “We have said that we consider that the autonomy talks have gone as far as they could under that framework.” He added, “We do not expect that the autonomy talks could go forward with only the participation of Israel, Egypt, and ourselves.” He added that he believed Jordan wants to get into the peace process but that the right framework hasn’t been found.