WASHINGTON (Jan. 9)
The Reagan Administration indicated that it would not like to see Israel break off its deadlocked talks with Lebanon on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon.
While refusing to comment on Israel’s decision not to attend the next round of talks, State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said yesterday the U.S. believes that these talks, which he stressed are under United Nations auspices, “represent the best means of achieving resolution of the problems in south Lebanon.”
But Romberg made clear that while the U.S. will continue to be “helpful” in the talks, it has no plans of taking a more active role such as being a mediator between the two sides. He said the State Department is still assessing findings from the last trip to the Mideast of Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs. There are no “specific” plans for Murphy to return to the area soon, Romberg said. Meanwhile, Romberg said that both Israel and Egypt have asked the U.S. to participate in the talks which will begin next week over Taba, the disputed strip on the Gulf of Aqaba. He said he did not know who will represent the U.S. at the talks which will start in Beersheba and then rotate to Ismailia in Egypt.
The strip, which houses an Israeli hotel and beach club, has been a source of dispute between Israel and Egypt and one of the reasons Egypt has cited for the refusal to send its Ambassador back to Israel. Egypt claims the strip is part of the Sinai desert that Israel returned to it three years ago as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Romberg also confirmed that Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid will come to Washington in February. Meguid is expected to pave the way for a visit by President Hosni Mubarak to President Reagan reportedly in March.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is also expected to come to Washington in February. He has not been to Washington since 1977 before the Camp David agreements, cancelling visits with President Carter in 1979 and Reagan in 1981.