The Reagan Administration, with an eye focussed on President Amin Gemayel’s talks in Damascus, stressed today that if the May 17, 1983 agreement between Lebanon and Israel is abrogated, those who do so will have the responsibility for finding an alternative method for the departure of foreign forces from Lebanon.
“Those who seek to abrogate it bear a responsibility for finding and achieving some alternative way for assuring Israel’s withdrawal,” State Department spokesman John Hughes said. He noted that Israel has made clear its attitude on abrogation.
While Hughes did not go into what the Israelis have said, Israeli officials have declared that if the agreement is abrogated by Lebanon, Israel would not be bound by any of the commitments it had made under the agreement and its forces would not leave Lebanon until there is a government in Beirut that can assure the security of Israel’s northern border.
Hughes said the Administration will have to wait and see what the outcome is of Gemayel’s talks with President Hafez Assad of Syria aimed at bringing about a reconciliation between the various factions in Lebanon. Syria’s main price for its support and the support of the Syrian-backed factions in Lebanon now opposed to the Gemayel government, is abandonment of the May 17 agreement.
U.S. STILL SUPPORTS MAY 17 ACCORD
Hughes said that if Lebanon does abrogate the agreement, the U.S. will have to face this new “reality.” But, he said, the U.S. still considers the agreement a good one. He said the U.S. was asked for its help in achieving the agreement and believes its efforts were “honorable,” “worthwhile” and “the right thing to do.”
He said responsibility for the subsequent failure was not that of the U.S. but that of Syria which refused to negotiate the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon.
At the same time, Hughes rejected the view that the U.S. was disengaging itself from the Lebanese situation. He reemphasized the Administration’s position that the transfer of the U.S. marine’s from Beirut to ships of the Sixth Fleet offshore was a redeployment, not a pullout.
Prince Bandar, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Washington, met with Secretary of State George Shultz yesterday and gave him a letter from King Fahd to President Reagan reportedly urging the U.S. to stay actively involved in Lebanon. The letter also reportedly urged U.S. support for abrogation of the May 17 agreement.
Hughes maintained that the U.S. still has the option for a military response in Lebanon. The Administration reportedly rejected a request yesterday by Gemayel for the U.S. to use its firepower to maintain the military status quo in Lebanon.
Hughes said today that the U.S. position remained what it has always been, that if Americans are fired upon the U.S. will fire back. He also said that if military action was taken against civilians in Lebanon, the U.S. would “certainly consider appropriate responses” but he would not explain what those responses might be.
While the Administration maintains that it is not disengaging from Lebanon, Reagan’s special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, is not expected to return to Lebanon on his next visit to the Middle East. Instead, he is expected to concentrate on the Administration’s hopes to bring Jordan into negotiations with Israel over the West Bank.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.