INTRODUCTION: Presidents Hafez Al-Assad of Syria and Elias Sarkis of Lebanon have been seeking ways of easing tension in the sensitive southern part of Lebanon bordering Israel.
INTRODUCTION: Presidents Hafez Al-Assad of Syria and Elias Sarkis of Lebanon have been seeking ways of easing tension in the sensitive southern part of Lebanon bordering Israel. An agreement to work for a joint position came in a communique released in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Wednesday (2 February), after five hours of talks between the two leaders.
SYNOPSIS: Their meeting followed Israeli demands for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from southern Lebanon. Last week the Syrians were reported in the town of Nabatiyeh, only seven miles (11 kilometres) from the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Israel said it could not tolerate non-Lebanese troops too near the frontier. But before his meeting with the Lebanese head of state, President Assad told reporters that the Syrian troops in Lebanon, part of the Arab League Peace Force there, were under the command of President Sarkis. If he ordered them to the southernmost extremity of Lebanon, they would go there, Mr. Assad said. He would leave the final decision to the Lebanese President.
The situation comes in the middle of intense diplomatic activity, spearheaded by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, to reconvene the 1973 Geneva Middle East peace conference to bring about a permanent Arab-Israeli settlement. The main proposal is to create an independent Palestine on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the River Jordan.