U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy began a new effort yesterday to break the deadlock in the Israeli-Lebanese negotiations over an Israeli troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Murphy met in Tel Aviv with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin before traveling here for a late-afternoon meeting with Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Washington Post correspondent Edward Walsh reported.
Israeli officials said Murphy, at the outset of what is expected to be a two-week shuttle mission among Jerusalem, Damascus and Beirut, was briefed on the status of the negotiations and on Israel's objectives in the talks. Murphy did not comment after the meetings.
The latest round of Israeli-Lebanese negotiations began Nov. 8 at the U.N. southern Lebanon headquarters in Naqura. The talks, between military delegations from the two countries and the United Nations, are aimed at reaching agreement on security arrangements in southern Lebanon on which Israel is insisting as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of its troops from the territory.
A senior Israeli Defense Ministry official said the government here hoped that Murphy's "good contacts" in Damascus, where Murphy served as ambassador, would help to overcome the deadlock in the Naqura talks.
"The Syrians are the key to any progress," the official said. "Our view of the situation in Beirut is that the Lebanese are so confused among themselves that they can't decide anything."