Israeli and Lebanese Military Teams to Meet Monday to Discuss IDF Withdrawal from South Lebanon

Israeli and Lebanese military teams will meet Monday to begin discussions on the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon and the security of Israel’s northern borders after the IDF’s pullout.

The talks were announced in a brief statement issued at United Nations headquarters in New York last night which said they were “convoked” by the Secretary General and will be held in Naqura, headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on the Lebanese side of the border.

The announcement was warmly welcomed by Israelis who see it as a breakthrough, with the Lebanese no longer insisting that negotiations with Israel be considered a revival of the long-defunct Mixed Armistice Commission, a relic of the 1948 War of Independence. Israel had balked at that position and a top UN political aide, Jean-Claude Aimee, has been shuttling between Jerusalem and Beirut over the past two weeks to try to overcome the obstacle.

Israeli leaders immediately began discussion of the upcoming military talks with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, the Reagan Administration’s senior aide on the Middle East, who arrived here yesterday for “exploratory” efforts. Murphy will go to Beirut and Damascus and will return to Jerusalem next week.

SYRIA’S ATTITUDE ON THE TALKS

Syria, whose troops continue to occupy large areas of Lebanon will not participate in the talks. But Murphy agreed when Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir observed that the Lebanese government would not have entered the talks without Syrian consent.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told Murphy that the talks on Israeli withdrawal would focus on substance, meaning security arrangements once the IDF leaves Lebanese soil, and deal only minimally with procedure. Israeli officials stressed today that the success of the talks will depend on Syria’s attitude rather than on Lebanese positions.

A report from Beirut today said Syria gave its approval to the UN-sponsored talks but quoted Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam as saying that Syria will not guarantee the security of Israel’s northern border. According to the report, Khaddam, after meeting with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel in Beirut, declared that Syria is not ready, directly or indirectly, to give guarantees or commitments to Israel or anyone else or to accept any conditions.

A QUESTION OF TIME

Rabin, addressing the Knesset yesterday, refused to say how long Israel would give the diplomatic process to bear fruit before it looks to unilateral options, such as a partial pulback of the IDF in south Lebanon.

The members of the Israeli military negotiating team have not yet been named, nor has the UN role in the talks been spelled out. But there are indications that UNIFIL would be expected to assume greater responsibilities with respect to the security of Israel’s borders.

The announcement, by a UN spokesman in New York, stated: “Following consultations with the governments of Lebanon and Israel the Secretary General has convoked a conference of military representatives of Lebanon and Israel to discuss military aspects relating to the withdrawal of Israeli forces and security arrangements in south Lebanon. The conference would start November 5 at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqura.

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