August 19, 1983
Four weeks ago President Reagan reaffirmed his commitment to three fundamental goals in Lebanon -- the earliest possible withdrawal of all foreign forces, the extension of Lebanese sovereignty throughout its territory, and that Lebanon shall not again become a source of hostile actions against Israel. The agreement concluded between Israel and Lebanon on May 17 is an important step toward achievement of these goals. The President directed that U.S. efforts be renewed in a mission to the Middle East headed by Ambassadors Robert McFarlane and Richard Fairbanks.
Since that time Ambassadors McFarlane and Fairbanks have traveled extensively throughout the region, undertaking intensive talks with Arab and Israeli leaders. Several conclusions have emerged from these talks.
First and foremost is the solid foundation of support in the Arab world and in Israel for the principles of full withdrawal and full authority for the Lebanese Government. Equally clear is the enormity of the task the Lebanese Government faces in seeking to strengthen the consensus among the diverse confessional groups in Lebanon which is so essential to the reconstruction and revitalization of the Lebanese economy and the establishment of political stability. It is clear that President Gemayel is committed to these goals.
In its efforts the Government of Lebanon will soon face an opportunity to restore stability and extend the process of reconstruction and consensus building to the districts of Alayh and Shuf as the Government of Israel withdraws its forces from these areas. This move by Israel is the first in a process of withdrawal envisaged in the May 17 agreement. In recent weeks some have questioned the motives underlying this withdrawal by Israel, saying that it presages a permanent partition of Lebanon. We are convinced that the Israeli Government is committed to the full withdrawal of its forces in Lebanon. In this regard it is instructive to note official Israeli statements such as the following:
"It is the policy and the intention of the Government of Israel to withdraw from the whole of Lebanon and that the redeployment of our forces along the Awwali line is only part of that total withdrawal.
"It is our firm desire to see a strong central government restoring its authority over the whole of Lebanon and maintaining security throughout its 10,452 square kilometers; thus, all allegations regarding Israeli intentions of bringing about a partition or division of Lebanon are completely baseless and totally without foundation.''
We are confident that further Israeli withdrawal will take place as efforts continue to secure the concurrent withdrawal of PLO and Syrian forces.
The United States pledges its best efforts to help create conditions which will allow these withdrawals to take place at the earliest possible moment. Within this context, the Governments of Israel and Lebanon will coordinate the smooth and orderly return of responsibility in the Alayh-Shuf areas. Concurrently, efforts by the Government of Lebanon to strengthen the consensus will continue so that stability and reconstruction can take hold.
We call upon Syria and the PLO for a corresponding process of withdrawal so that Lebanon can be restored as a unified, sovereign, independent country.
Note: Deputy Press Secretary Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters assembled in the briefing facility at the Sheraton Santa Barbara Hotel in Santa Barbara, Calif., at 10:07 a.m.