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Israel-lebanon Talks Begin Tomorrow, Cabinet Announces

December 27, 1982
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The Cabinet announced today that Israel will begin negotiations with Lebanon this Tuesday, despite reports from Beirut of sharp differences over the nature of the talks between President Amin Gemayel and his Moslem Prime Minister, Shafik Al Wazan.

The talks are to be held alternately in Khalde, a seaside resort just south of Beirut and Kiryat Shmona, an Israeli town near the Lebanese border. The opening round is set for Khalde but the Cabinet did not mention that site in its communique today, apparently to allow for last minute changes. The area around Khalde has been the scene of sharp fighting between Druze and Christian Phalangists in recent days.

The United States will participate in the negotiations which are aimed at the speedy withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon — the Israeli and Syrian armies and the remnants of the Palestine Liberation-Organization. But a wide gap still remains between the Israeli and Lebanese views of the talks.


Lebanon wants to focus on the withdrawal of forces and security arrangements. The Israelis insist that the negotiations cover normalization of relations and an end to belligerency, amounting to a de facto peace between the two countries that would lead to a formal peace treaty at a later stage.

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon brought home a working paper to that effect after meetings with undisclosed high ranking Lebanese officials in Beirut December 16. But he failed to secure a Lebanese official signature on the paper. Wazan charged over the weekend that Israel had presented substantial new demands which could delay the start of negotiations.

Cabinet secretary Dan Meridor denied this to reporters after today’s Cabinet session. “There is no new Israeli position,” Meridor said. He said the Cabinet last week had approved the draft Sharon brought from Lebanon and considers it to be the document which will guide the talks.

According to Israeli sources, Sharon held his meetings with President Gemayel’s “associates” without the immediate knowledge of Wazan. The situation is similar to the one faced by Israel when it pressed President-elect Bashir Gemayel to sign a peace treaty last September. Bashir, Amin’s brother, was assassinated on September 14.

President Gemayel is believed to be confronted by the dilemma of proceeding with the negotiations on the basis of his understanding with the Israelis and thereby distancing himself from the Lebanese Moslem leadership which backed his election. Observers here noted that this is the first time since Gemayel’s election that differences have surfaced between the Christian President and the Moslem Premier.


Reports from Beirut today said Gemayel was determined to go ahead with the talks this week despite heavy pressure from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia warned him specifically last weekend not to make any commitments to Israel. If the talks open at Khalde Tuesday, they will be continued at Kiryat Shmona on Thursday.

The Cabinet was also briefed today by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir on his recent trip to Argentina and Uruguay. He discussed his talks with officials of those countries and with local Jewish leaders. He also briefed the ministers on his conversation in New York last week with Nicholas Veliotes, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs.

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