Israeli blockade lifted to please US envoy
Saturday 11 March 1995
Israel yesterday lifted its naval blockade of the southern Lebanese coast as a goodwill gesture to the US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, who is visiting the Middle East to try to get peace negotiations resumed. Greeting the end of the blockade, the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, said: "This is an Israeli habit. They create the problem, so we talk to the Americans, the Americans talk to the Israelis and then they solve the problem."
The lifting of the blockade is the only achievement so far of Mr Christopher's trip. Some Israeli officials said the blockade had been aimed at securing better treatment for 200,000 Lebanese living inside the Israeli security zone when they travel north into government-held territory. Others said it was to stop the flow of arms to the pro-Iranian Hizbollah movement, fighting Israel and its local allies.
Mr Christopher urged the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, in Gaza, to act against people making suicide bomb attacks on Israelis, so that "Gaza cannot be a safe haven". Pledging to co-operate, Mr Arafat added: "I have no magic stick. We are doing all our best."
During the meeting with Mr Arafat, Mr Christopher spoke of his efforts to persuade other governments to fulfil promises to contribute tens of millions of dollars, and outlined new US aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The aid includes 200 surplus trucks and teams from the Pentagon and the Agriculture Department, to give advice on medical, humanitarian and agricultural needs.
Although Mr Christopher praised the agreement reached between the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, and Mr Arafat, on Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank and Palestinian elections, the announcement of a new date has been greeted with scepticism. Mr Arafat has reportedly said there was no progress. Target dates - in this case 1 July - have been set before and achieved nothing.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli government has set an upbeat mood. "The only, and the main, obstacle to moving ahead with the Palestinians is terrorism," said the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. He predicted Mr Christopher would reopen negotiations between Israel and Syria. The blockade of the Lebanese coast was partly aimed at showing the limits of Syrian power in Lebanon, so its abandonment is a small gesture to Damascus.
Mr Christopher began his tour in Cairo on Wednesday. He will visit Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel last year, is anxious to get a schedule of US debt-forgiveness, after Congress made only a small cut in the amount of debt to be written off. The act convinced observers in Syria and Israel that the US will not underwrite a peace deal, as it did with Israel and Egypt at the time of the Camp David agreement.
With elections next year in the US, Mr Christopher's visit is seen as a last chance to get talks started again, particularly at the level of senior military officers. But the Syrian president, Hafez al-Assad, may feel Mr Rabin no longer has the political strength to ensure that Israel withdraws from the Golan Heights, captured in 1967.
- 1 Video shows how to turn your phone into a 3D hologram
- 2 Artist Jamie McCartney: How The Great Wall of Vagina is a stand against 'body fascism'
- 3 Katie Hopkins reveals fear she will die during brain surgery to cure epilepsy
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
RideLondon 2015: Cyclist dies while climbing highest hill in Surrey during sportive
Katie Hopkins reveals fear she will die during brain surgery to cure epilepsy
Tensions flare as Confederate flag supporter reaches for gun when confronted by protests – in pictures
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic and interes...
£16224 - £20280 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Warehouse & Stores Supervisor...
£35000 - £39000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...