Remarks to Reporters on the Israel-Lebanon Peace Agreement

May 17, 1983

The President. Instead of the usual chit-chat here now while the cameras are on us, I'm going to make a little statement in their presence because of an event that took place this morning, and that was the agreement that's been drawn between Lebanon and Israel and was signed this morning and, I think, is a positive step toward peace in the Middle East.

And I'd like to extend my personal congratulations to President Gemayel and to Prime Minister Begin and their colleagues for the courage and statesmanship that they've shown. But also I would like to extend, and I think on behalf of all of the country, the heartfelt thanks for our Secretary of State, George Shultz. On top of the long-term efforts of our Ambassadors Habib and Draper, who are working over there, George went over and, I think, set some kind of a record for going without sleep or rest in a real nonstop shuttle.

And now that brings about this agreement that I think gives hope for ending the suffering of the Lebanese people. It'll initiate a process which will culminate in the withdrawal of all external forces from Lebanon and of restoring Lebanon's sovereignty, independence, and control over its territory. And this will enhance the security, I think, and well-being of Lebanon and all of its neighbors.

It deserves the support of all of Lebanon's friends in the Middle East and around the world. And the way is now clear for others whose forces are in Lebanon to agree to withdraw as well. And this opportunity shouldn't be allowed to slip away. The risks if withdrawal fails are far greater than the risks of completing the withdrawal. And we will stand firmly beside Lebanon as this effort continues in the weeks and months ahead.

And, again, my thanks to George Shultz for what he has accomplished over there.

Q. What do you think is the possibility of a withdrawal of Syrian forces and the PLO, Mr. President?

The President. Tonight in the press conference I'll -- [laughter] -- --

Q. Remind me not to ask. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 9:40 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House at the beginning of a meeting between the President and Republican congressional leaders.