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Tuesday, 23 August 1983
Page: 116

Question No. 137

Mr Jacobi asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 12 May 1983:

Will the Government, in light of the developments in Lebanon in which several hundreds of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps were massacred on 17 and 18 September 1982, (a) condemn unequivocally and publicly in the strongest terms the parties responsible, (b) recognise that (i) this episode has further reduced the prospect of progress being made in the foreseeable future towards resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict through President Reagan's plan announced on 1 September 1982 and (ii) the alleviation of the human suffering of Lebanon cannot await the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, (c) examine, with a view to adopting and promoting, a new initiative to solve Lebanon's problems, (d) call for the internationalisation of Lebanon by creating a neutral disarmed Lebanon, backed by UN guarantees and a multinational force for as long as it is needed and (e) support any moves which would (i) ensure that Lebanon would be free from external interference in its internal affairs and (ii) permit the Lebanese people to achieve a national reconciliation free from the consequences and complexities of disputes that arise elsewhere, and which are not of Lebanon's doing.

Mr Hayden —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

My predecessor stated on 20 September 1982 that the then Australian Government was appalled at the massacres which took place at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The present Government shares that attitude. When I raised the issue in Parliament on 22 September 1982 I referred to the 'appalling slaughter' which had taken place on 16, 17 and 18 September and likened it to a 'slaughter which has all the appearance of a premeditated attempt at human extermination'.

The Australian Government strongly believes that Lebanon should be free from outside interference and that it should remain a sovereign and independent State . We would support moves which would enable the Lebanese authorities to regain sovereignty over the whole of their territory. We would agree that the alleviation of the human suffering of Lebanon cannot await the resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict. On 18 may 1983 the Government welcomed the conclusion of an agreement between Lebanon and Israel on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. I subsequently wrote to the Lebanese and Israeli Foreign Ministers to welcome the agreement and to express Australian support for the concept of negotiations to resolve the problems of the area. On 27 June I wrote to the Syrian Foreign Minister to express the hope that Syria, through negotiations with the Government of Lebanon, would agree to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. I said the withdrawal of all external forces would contribute to a reduction in tension and the lessening of the potential for conflict in the region.

The suggestion is noted that an initiative should be taken to call for the internationalisation of Lebanon by the creation of a neutral disarmed Lebanon, backed by UN guarantees and a multinational force. Australia supports in principle arrangements which would give Lebanon, and its neighbours, confidence that their security would be assured. However, Australia is not a party principal to the negotiations for the withdrawal of external forces from Lebanon . Any initiative such as that proposed would have the most chance of success if it were to come from one of the parties directly involved, and it would certainly seem to require the concurrence of the sovereign Lebanese government.

The Australian Government has already provided $10m to assist towards the reconstruction of Lebanon.