Lebanese President Amin Gemayel ended two days of talks with the Syrian leadership Friday without pledging support for the Lebanese peace agreement that was signed last week.
It was not clear from statements issued to the press by the Syrians and the Lebanese whether the 43-year-old Christian president had openly opposed the peace plan in the face of Syrian pressure to go along with it.
But the Syrians had hoped to receive a firm expression of support from Gemayel, and its absence suggested that problems remain to be settled. Gemayel met for five hours with Syrian President Hafez Assad and for four hours with First Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, Assad’s personal trouble-shooter for Lebanon.
‘The Fate of Peace’
Damascus radio said the talks “covered all aspects of the situation and the fate of peace, security and national reconciliation in Lebanon.”
Syrian newspapers said that Gemayel, who returned to Beirut, would be back in Damascus next week for more talks following visits to the Syrian capital by former President Suleiman Franjieh and other Lebanese leaders. Franjieh is a close friend of Assad’s, but he, too, has opposed the accord.
The tripartite peace agreement, which was painstakingly negotiated by the Syrians, was signed here last Saturday by the leaders of Lebanon’s main Muslim and Christian militias.
The signatories were Elie Hobeika, leader of the Christian militia known as the Lebanese Forces; Nabih Berri of the Shia Muslim militia called Amal, and Walid Jumblatt of the Druze militia organization known as the Progressive Socialist Party.
Gemayel Believed Angry
Gemayel was believed to be angry with the accord because he was not consulted during the negotiations and because the final text contains provisions that will significantly reduce his powers as president. The accord calls for disbanding all militias and forming a national coalition Cabinet with power to call in Syrian troops to help quell any unrest.
Gemayel told reporters in Beirut that the talks covered “all aspects” of the peace plan.
“What I’m interested in is in ending the state of war in all senses, not just on paper,” Gemayel said. “Ending the state of war lies in a careful consideration of the solution which lays down the basis for a future Lebanon.”
The remarks, which seemed intentionally vague, clearly did not represent the unqualified endorsement the Syrians had sought.
Gemayel was the apparent target of an assassination attempt Tuesday when gunmen fired into the presidential limousine north of Beirut. Gemayel was not in the car at the time. The ambush followed closely an attempt on the life of a senior official of the Lebanese Forces, Assad Shaftari, who was one of the negotiators of the peace plan, and the Christian militia accused Gemayel aides of being behind the attack.
A power struggle has been under way for several months within the Christian community, between militia leaders and Gemayel. As a result, the president and his Falangist party have lost considerable power.
The Syrian government has kept any mention of the tension in the Christian community out of the controlled press here. The assassination attempts were not mentioned, either.
A commentary in Tishrin, a government newspaper, said that Syria will “provide all necessary backing” for the peace accord.
“It is ready to confront all possibilities and will not be silent toward any attempt to hinder implementation,” the newspaper said.
The Syrians have not made it clear whether they will deploy troops to enforce the peace. There are about 30,000 Syrian soldiers in Lebanon, but they are mostly in the eastern Bekaa Valley and in the north, around the port of Tripoli.