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Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 1981

Senator SIBRAA —Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to the five points made by the Lebanese Christian delegation which appeared before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence yesterday? The points are that the Australian Government should: Condemn civilian massacres in Lebanon; call on all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon; take measures through the United Nations Security Council to guarantee Lebanese neutrality; initiate action for a United Nations or multinational peacekeeping force to go to Lebanon; and take humanitarian measures to alleviate the suffering in Lebanon. Is the Minister able to advise what measures the Government can take to respond to those demands?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of the five points to which the honourable senator referred. I draw his attention at the outset to the answer which the Prime Minister gave to a question on the situation in Lebanon on 8 May. The Prime Minister then expressed, on behalf of the Government and the whole of the Parliament, our great distress at the continued violence which is taking place in Lebanon. He also expressed the Government's deepest sympathy to the Lebanese community in Australia. I offer the following comments in response to the specific points raised by the Lebanese Christian delegation which appeared before the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, chaired by Senator Sibraa.

As to the first point, the Government is aware of reports of alleged massacres during the recent fighting in Lebanon. We are particularly concerned that these reports and the continued violence will breed more violence. We continue to call upon all parties in Lebanon to exercise maximum restraint at this time. As to the second point, the Government's policy on foreign forces in Lebanon has been clearly stated previously. We believe that all foreign forces should withdraw, except those which are there at the request of the Government of Lebanon, and that external interference in Lebanon's internal affairs should cease. As to the third point, we note the proposals for a new United Nations or multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Australia supports, in principle, arrangements which would give Lebanon and its neighbours confidence that their security would be assured. However, to have any chance of success, such an initiative-whether it occurs in the Security Council or elsewhere-should come from, or at least have the concurrence of, the Lebanese Government.

As to the fourth point, Australia has expressed its support for the operation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and we hope that all parties concerned will create the necessary conditions for the effective operation of UNIFIL. Australia has been a generous contributor of funds to UNIFIL operations and that support will continue. As to the final point about humanitarian measures, since 1983 the Australian Government has provided to Lebanon over $13m for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts. I add that the Government is fully alert to the dimensions of the problem in Lebanon and is anxious to do anything that it can to assist. Accordingly, I have today requested the Australian permanent representative in New York to explore with the Lebanese permanent representative, as well as with the representatives of the other major actors on the Security Council, the scope for constructive action that might be taken by the Security Council.