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ered to me by John Kelly, then the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon. I would make two points about it.
Chairman GILMAN. What is the date of that document?
Mr. GEMAYEL. The date is 12 March, 1988, the last year of my term. In this document, Ambassador John Kelly makes two points: The first one is to say that the position of the Muslims, including Salim Hoss, who at that time was Prime Minister and leader of the Sunnis Committee on Lebanon, on power sharing is that of President Amin Gemayel. “The Syrians, including Salim Hoss, do not want," et cetera, et cetera.
So it shows that we were able to get a real consensus and to build a consensual new Constitution. So the first point is the other Lebanese leaders and I agreed upon the essentials of the change in the Constitution.
The second point, and this is very important, Mr. Chairman, and it is significant, when the U.S. ambassador in Lebanon expresses this, "clearly Muslim leaders live in fear and are taking positions under Syrian pressure.” This was in 1988, and nothing has changed since in the period, and I was obliged to leave the country.
The emissary, who at that time informed Ambassador John Kelly about this Muslim position, was assassinated 1 month later. That just shows you the kind of democracy we have and the kind of freedom and liberty enjoyed by several leaders who actually live in Lebanon, and the President and the members of the government.
Chairman GILMAN. Without objection, we will make that memorandum a part of our record.
[The memorandum appears in the appendix.]
Chairman GILMAN. Mr. President, I cannot thank you enough for your sacrifice in time and travel it took to bring you over here and to be patient throughout our hearing. Your very eloquent remarks helped to give us a better insight
Mr. GEMAYEL. My poor English language.
Chairman GILMAN. You did very well. I recall when we met with you many years ago in Lebanon; at that time it was a country under siege and there was a lot of hostility going on. We met with you up in a fortress at that time at the top of the mountain.
We thank you again for being here.
Joint Statement by C. David Welch,
Lefore the House International Relations Committee
June 25, 1997
Mr. Chairman, we are pleased to have the opportunity to address the Committee concerning Lebanon. We understand and appreciate the interest of Members of Congress, Lebanese-Americans and others on this issue. Lebanon is a country with historically warm ties to the United States. Lebanese-Americans have strengthened and enriched this country and its institutions.
A stable, independent, economically vibrant and democratically-governed Lebanon is an important U.S. national interest. U.S. policy toward Lebanon remains firmly committed to Lebanon's unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Lebanon can achieve these political and economic objectives through reconstruction, national reconciliation, adherence to free markets, participation in the peace process, and the fulfillment of the Taif Accords. We believe these steps will make possible the departure of all foreign forces.
The U.S. continues to work hard to achieve a comprehensive regional peace and help Lebanon recover from civil war. We are committed to the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and we have continued to urge both sides to be prepared to exploit opportunities for peace. The Lebanese government has indicated that it looks forward to proceeding as soon as a favorable atmosphere develops. Israel would also like to see negotiations resume to address its concerns about security along its border with Lebanon.
The Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group called for by the April 26 Understanding brokered by former-Secretary Christopher has held numerous meetings since beginning operations in July 1996. The Monitoring Group has contributed to easing tensions and avoiding civilian casualties in southern Lebanon and northern Israel by affording Lebanon, Syria and Israel a forum that helps avoid escalation and protecting civilians. The U.S. also organized a meeting of 30 countries and eight international lending institutions in a consultative group called the Friends of Lebanon to assist in Lebanon's reconstruction. The meeting took place last December 16 and was successful in focusing positive international attention on Lebanon. The meeting also generated various kinds of assistance to help keep Lebanon's reconstruction efforts on track.
We encourage Lebanon's continued adherence to democratic principles. In September 1996, Lebanon completed elections in which all 128 members of the parliament were chosen. The U.S. encouraged participation by all Lebanese. The elections enjoyed heavy campaigning and a good turnout in most regions. Despite significant flaws, we believe these elections represented a step forward. They underscore the Lebanese people's desire to put the civil war behind them and to focus on strengthening their institutions and advancing national reconciliation. On the other hand, Lebanon has not had municipal elections in over 30 years. We urge Lebanon to take the necessary steps to effect free and fair municipal elections in the
near future. In 1998, Lebanon's parliament must elect a new President, and we look forward to seeing a vigorously contested election.
As we have documented in our human rights report, we are concerned about certain steps the government has taken in the area of human rights and civil liberties, especially as regards the implementation of the media law, other media restrictions, and the arrests of government opponents after a shooting incident last December. These arrests took place without due process under Lebanese law. We have taken such issues up directly with the government and will continue to do so. We were pleased that the arrestees were all released.
The Lebanese government has gradually expanded its authority but still does not exercise control over all Lebanese territory. Syria maintains 25-30,000 troops mostly in the Bekaa Valley. Israel maintains approximately 1,000-1,200 troops in southern Lebanon, and supports 2,000 allies in the South Lebanese Army. Hizballah exercises primary control in parts of Beirut's southern suburbs, areas in the Bekaa Valley, including training camps, and parts of southern Lebanon. That said, there has been a marked improvement in the security situation since the last U.S. hostages were released in 1991, and there have been no terrorist attacks against Americans or other Westerners in over six years.
Another important reason for this progress has been the restoration of the Lebanese Armed Forces. At the end of the civil war in 1990, the LAF was a small, spent and divided army. Thanks to strong leadership and modest U.S. assistance, the LAF is now a disciplined, multi-confessional force numbering 60,000. The LAF has played a major role in creating a more secure Lebanon and is one of the most respected government institutions in the country. The LAF closely cooperates with the U.S. and dedicates significant assets to securing our Embassy. The U.S. is also beginning a small police training program which we hope will also foster the rule of law and increase cooperation on counter-narcotics, counterfeiting and other law enforcement issues. We note that while drug labs and transit problems still exist, Lebanon has eradicated drug crops in the Bekaa Valley. Overall law enforcement cooperation has been good.
The government has limited the activities of many violent individuals and some groups in Lebanon. For example, in 1996, Lebanon extradited to Germany for prosecution a suspect in the April 1986 Berlin Disco bombing in which two U.S. servicemen were killed. We continue to pursue with the Lebanese the investigation of those responsible for terrorist crimes against Americans in the eighties. The Lebanese government has also taken other steps to combat terrorism and has acceded to nine of the ten international anti-terrorism conventions. The tenth is now before the parliament, and we expect approval in the near future. The government continues to provide personal security to many high-profile Americans visiting Lebanon. In early 1997, Lebanese authorities arrested and is trying five members of the Japanese Red Army, who had been resident in the Bekaa. We also note that the Lebanese government spoke out forcefully against recent threats to Americans in Turkey by a PKK spokesman in Lebanon and in answer to threats of domestic violence by former Hizballah Secretary General Subhi Tufayli.
Within the country, Lebanese authorities have also made progress in upgrading airport security measures, but travel to or through Beirut International Airport (BIA) is not risk free. Most travelers using BIA transit the airport road which passes through Hizballah-controlled areas of south Beirut and near several Palestinian refugee camps. A new, safer airport road is under construction, however.
Despite these positive steps, we judge that Lebanon continues to be a dangerous place for Americans. Lebanon remains a safe haven for armed, organized groups with a demonstrated history of terrorist attacks against Americans. These include Hizballah, the Abu Nidal Organization, the PFLP-GC and other groups. These groups are not completely restrained by the government and continue to demonstrate a hostility toward the United States and our citizens. They still retain a capability to take actions if they choose. We receive occasional reports of surveillance of Embassy Beirut and its personnel.
The restriction on the use of the U.S. passport and a strong travel warning began in the eighties as a result of our continuing concerns about the security threat to American citizens. The restriction was extended annually until January 1994. Since then it has been extended for periods of six months in order to review the security situation on a more frequent basis. The restriction will expire on July 31, and Secretary Albright will review the restriction prior to that date.
Regulations also allow for circumstances in which the State Department may grant an exception to the passport restrictions. The State Department through the Consular Affairs Bureau adjudicates such Lebanon validation requests on a case-by-case basis and on an expedited basis for emergency travel. In 1996, we responded to a request from Senator Spencer Abraham and other Members of Congress to then-Secretary Christopher for a modification of the humanitarian passport validation category by expanding the definition of the family allowed to travel under that category. As a result, more Americans have received validations for travel to Lebanon for family reunification and family emergencies.
Other restrictions have long been in place on the purchase of airline tickets with itineraries including Lebanon, the use of Beirut International Airport (BIA) by U.S. carriers and U.S.-registered aircraft, landing rights in the U.S. by Lebanon's flag carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) and some restrictions on air cargo originating in Lebanon. In 1995, the U.S. eased ticketing restrictions to allow the purchase of airline tickets in the U.S. for non-Americans and Americans with properly validated passports. These groups were previously forced to buy their tickets in third countries. These instances demonstrate we are prepared to make changes in our restrictions and relax aspects of them as conditions warrant.
While the U.S. has no trade sanctions against Lebanon and no special export license requirements apply, we are aware that the restrictions make it harder for U.S. commercial interests to compete for business in Lebanon, but a growing number of U.S. companies do successfully conduct business in Lebanon, usually through partnership agreements. Our Embassy commercial section and our Ambassador also make every effort to be of assistance. We are advocating forcefully on behalf of U.S. business on several major projects. Our colleagues at the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, the Exim Bank and other agencies are actively supporting U.S. business efforts in Lebanon. The United States remains one of the major exporters of products into Lebanon. Much remains to be done to restore Lebanon's infrastructure and fully revive its economy. We are pleased that the government is beginning to focus on reconstruction and rehabilitation outside the Beirut area. On the other hand, we are troubled by recent Lebanese legislation restricting the import of agricultural and other products.
We look forward to the day when the security situation in Lebanon will have improved to the point that all travel restrictions can be lifted. More importantly, we look forward to the day