The Security Council opened debate today on a draft resolution linking a solution of the Lebanese crisis to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement that recognizes the Palestinians' right to "self-determination with all its implications."
The purpose of the resolution, submitted by France and Egypt, is to devise a formula that both the Palestine Liberation Organization and the United States can accept, thus satisfying conditions for the start of an American dialogue with the PLO, according to Egyptian Ambassador Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid.
He argued that such a formula would make it easier for U.S. envoy Philip C. Habib to reach an agreement in the Lebanon crisis by compensating the PLO politically for its military concessions.
Ambassador Luc de La Barre de Nanteuil of France, formally introducing the plan, told the 15-nation council, "The restoration of Lebanon cannot take place without a start on a negotiated settlement of the Palestine problem."
The council interrupted the debate over the resolution to pass by 14 to 0 another statement, proposed by Spain, demanding that Israel immediately lift its blockade of Beirut to permit the distribution of emergency supplies.
U.S. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick opposed the draft on the grounds that it was a "one-sided appeal in a two-sided conflict" that smacked of "political motives." But the United States did not vote on the resolution because Kirkpatrick said she was not provided with time to consult with Washington. It was the first time in U.N. history that the United States did not participate in a council vote.
Abdel Meguid said in an intervew after today's meeting that if Egypt and the United States could agree on a text defining Palestinian political rights, Egypt could provide a haven for some of the PLO guerrillas now besieged in West Beirut. He said President Hosni Mubarak had made Egypt's acceptance of the Palestinians conditional on American acceptance, in principle, of a Palestinian homeland.
American officials had initially dismissed the Franco-Egyptian initiative as a "non-starter" when it was circulated July 2. But Abdel Meguid said U.S. Ambassador Kirkpatrick since has indicated a willingness to reconsider the text, has offered comments on it and has agreed to discuss changes that might produce a formula acceptable to Washington.
Kirkpatrick, however, said today that while she is always prepared to have "serious discussions with our friends," the United States remains convinced that the best way to resolve the Lebanon crisis lies with Habib and "we should not like to see anything happen here which complicated that."
The PLO representative, Zehdi Labib Terzi, welcomed the Franco-Egyptian initiative but expressed a hope that the sponsors would amend it to specify the need for Palestinian statehood. Terzi also noted "with satisfaction" the resolution's reference to the right of all states in the area to live in peace.
Both the Egyptians and the French insisted that their effort was intended to complement, rather than supplant, Habib's talks on evacuation of PLO units from Beirut.
Their text calls for a permanent cease-fire in Lebanon, a mutual Israeli and PLO pullback that results in "putting an end" to Palestinian military activities around Beirut, and supervision of the disengagement by U.N. military observers.
The cosponsors say they are willing to consider amendments to make their proposal conform to any deal worked out by Habib, and are willing to put off a vote indefinitely to comply with the American mediator's timetable.
The proposal reaffirms the Arab-Israeli negotiating framework defined by Resolution 242 in 1967, mentioning specifically the "right of all states in the region to existence and security." But it goes far beyond 242--which dealt with the Palestinians only as a refugee issue--by affirming "the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people including the right to self-determination with all its implications." It also calls for the PLO to be "associated" with any future negotiations.
Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum rejected any attempt to tamper with U.N. Resolution 242, which he said "can only undermine the delicate framework on which the Middle East peace process is based."