Lebanon and Israel to keep talking on troop pullout
During the first day of Israeli-Lebanese talks on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon Thursday, the only agreement was to keep talking. The negotiations, held at the headquarters of the United Nations' Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), lasted four fours, Monitor correspondent Mary Curtius reports. The delegates agreed to hold talks three times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
In their opening statement, the Lebanese reportedly said that the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and '82 ''violated United Nations decisions and Security Council resolutions.'' The Lebanese said that the best framework for future Israeli-Lebanese relations is the 1949 mixed armistice agreement brokered by the UN.
The Israelis have long maintained that the Lebanese abrogated that agreement in 1967 and have insisted that the current talks do not fall within that framework, which arranged for a withdrawal of forces to international borders after the first Arab-Iraeli war.
Although an Israeli spokesman described the atmosphere Thursday as ''friendly ,'' there was evidence of how gingerly the Lebanese are being in the talks. Islamic fundamentalist organizations vowed Wednesday to assassinate anyone who took part in the talks.
The most important participant, however, is the one who wasn't there - Syria. The Israelis are looking to Syria for its formal assurances that their northern border will be protected from guerrilla attacks, should the Israelis pull their 18,000 troops out of south Lebanon.
The Lebanese are closely coordinating their positions in the negotiations with the Syrians, who have some 40,000 troops deployed in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley.
Although the Syrians have publicly expressed their support for the talks, political observers say the Syrians can be expected to urge the Lebanese to take a hard line during negotiations.
''The Syrians have nothing to lose by keeping the Israelis waiting,'' one analyst said. Israel invaded Lebanon in June of 1982.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Knesset recently that he felt only an agreement with Lebanon and Syria would ensure the security of Israel's northern towns once its troops were out of south Lebanon.