U.N., Israel compromise on return of deportees

February 13, 1993|By Paul Lewis | Paul Lewis,New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Security Council, closing the book on the dispute over Israel's deportation of more than 400 Palestinians six weeks ago, again urged Israel yesterday to take back the deportees and called on the Palestinian delegation to return to the stalled Middle East peace talks.

Under a complex agreement worked out in the last few weeks, the Security Council told Israel that it welcomed its decision to readmit 101 of the Palestinians deported to a barren strip of land separating the Israeli and Lebanese frontiers but that it expected Israel to comply fully with its order to take all of them back.

But in a victory for Israel, the council has also agreed to drop any consideration of an earlier demand by the Palestinian Liberation Organization for economic sanctions against Israel and is not now expected even to debate Israel's failure so far to comply fully with its orders.

The action reflects the efforts by the Clinton administration, with the backing of all other council members, including its three Muslim members, to give top priority to restarting the stalled Middle East peace negotiations after the Palestinians withdrew from those talks to protest the deportations.

The United States made it clear that it wanted the dispute over the deported Palestinians to be resolved at the United Nations before the departure of Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher for Israel on Wednesday on his first trip to the Middle East.

Some senior Israeli officials say they believe that as a result of yesterday's compromise, the Palestinians will return to the talks after Mr. Christopher completes his trip in about two weeks. Several other council members expressed the hope that this would happen but cautioned that they had no hard evidence of a behind-the-scenes deal.

The PLO spokesmen here denied that their organization had made any commitment to re-enter the Middle East peace talks and said they had not agreed to yesterday's action. "We are not a party to what was agreed today," the PLO's chief representative, Nasser Al Kidwa, said, calling it "meaningless."

"My instructions are that our terms for returning to the peace talks remain the same, the full and safe return of all the Palestinian deportees," he added.

Under yesterday's arrangement, this month's council president, Ahmed Snoussi of Morocco, explained the council's views to Israel's U.N. representative, Gad Yaacobi, at a private meeting at the United Nations in New York last night.

Afterward, he said the council had reaffirmed its decision to demand the return of all the deportees but felt the readmission of 101 represented "a step in the right direction." It urged Israel to "advance expeditiously" toward full compliance with its demands. And it urged "all concerned" to seek to "reinvigorate the Middle East peace process."

The Israeli representative then restated his government's position. This is that the expulsions represent a temporary and exceptional measure that is not a part of Israel's normal policy. Israel also says that all the temporary deportation orders will be reviewed by special boards regardless of whether an individual Palestinian has lodged an appeal.

This raises the possibility that many more could be readmitted well before their expulsion orders expire at the end of this year. But Israeli officials deny having given the Clinton administration any secret assurances that they would soon be taking the remainder back.

After the meeting, Mr. Yaacobi said he believed "this issue is now finally off the agenda of the Security Council." He urged all parties to return to the Middle East peace talks but gave no promise that the deportees would be let back before the end of the year.

The Security Council reacted to the original expulsions by voting on Dec. 18 to "strongly condemn" Israel's action as a breach of international law and demand it immediately readmit all those who it pushed over its border into Lebanon but who were subsequently refused permission to enter that country.

The PLO asked the council to impose mandatory sanctions on Israel after Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali reported that the special envoy he had sent to Jerusalem failed to persuade Israel to bow to the council's demands.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.