Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Pending Israel-PLO Pact, Lebanon Sees Few Steps

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Pending Israel-PLO Pact, Lebanon Sees Few Steps

Article excerpt

`UNTIL now," the Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Bouez told reporters in Beirut late Sept. 6, "no progress has been made in our talks with Israel. A certain state of immobility has characterized the talks so far."

Mr. Bouez's pessimistic assessment of progress in the Middle East peace negotiations contrasts with the mood of optimism surrounding discussions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bouez was speaking after a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. Syria and Lebanon have distanced themselves from the Israeli-Palestinian deal for limited Palestinian autonomy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Only a full and unconditional hand-over of Arab territory in compliance with United Nations Security Council resolutions will guarantee secure and lasting peace in the region," a commentator on state-controlled Damascus radio said Sept. 6.

Although the Lebanese government operates in the shadow of the Syrian authorities, its pessimism about the peace process overall and negative attitude toward the pending agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel reflect the popular mood in the country. In a week-long visit to Lebanon, this reporter heard little enthusiasm about the deal.

Many of Lebanon's fears about the PLO-Israeli deal relate to the fate of the estimated 300,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon. Under the terms of the PLO-Israeli agreement, talks about refugees moving to the new Palestinian entity are not scheduled to begin for at least two years.

"The Lebanese have two concerns," a Western diplomat in Beirut says. "They want to see the Israelis withdraw right away from all of southern Lebanon, and they want assurances that the peace process will result in the establishment of a Palestinian state which will be capable of taking all refugees."

The Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon fled from their homes when the state of Israel was created in 1948. The towns and villages these refugees fled are now part of Israel proper and are not part of the peace negotiations.

The authorities in Beirut are adamant, though, that the homeless Palestinians in Lebanon will have to leave once a peace settlement has been reached. …

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