Joint Press Conference by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Jerusalem, 21 June 2000

PM Barak: Good afternoon, we welcome here the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, and on behalf of the Israeli government, and myself, we convey to him our high appreciation for his role in pushing forward the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425.

I believe that the Secretary-General’s commitment and devotion to the cause of making peace helped a lot in translating our pullout from Lebanon into the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 425, in a way that will contribute, I believe, to the future stability of the region, and to the well-being and normalization of the region of southern Lebanon. I’ve also to thank, on this opportunity, the Secretary-General’s special envoy, Terje Larsen, who is here with us, and for a long time, working on this job, as well as many other issues that the UN is dealing with in this region. Together with us here, too, is General Schneeron, from the UNIFIL force. We are thankful for the UNIFIL, and for you, General, as well.

We discussed the situation in Lebanon, and along the border, the steps that Israel is taking in order to enable the continued implementation of 425 in regard to our compliance with the resolution, as well as later on. The Lebanese need to review their sovereignty over there, together with the UN deployment of UNIFIL, and we are waiting that this also will happen.

Beside this, we briefed the Secretary-General on the developments on other tracks of the peace process, as well, and, once again, we have UN forces on almost every corner of our neighborly relations with the neighbors here, and we are thankful for this participation of the UN, as well. I believe that the UN, under your leadership, Mr. Secretary-General, became a much more prominent organization that took positive steps to make the world a better place to live in. Thank you very much.

Secretary-General Annan: If I may say a word, Mr. Prime Minister. Let me also thank you for the co-operation we received throughout this process. Without the co-operation from you and the government of Lebanon, we couldn’t be where we are today. I think this is also an important development in the Israeli-UN relationship, that here we are, working together to implement fully a Security Council Resolution. Recently, as you know, Israel was also admitted to the Western European Group, and I hope we will be able to build on these positive developments.

But of course, as I had had a chance to say in New York, this is an important building block on the long road to peace, and we will want this to be seen as the beginning of the end, and we will continue the efforts of the international commissions and the parties concerned will continue their efforts to implement Resolutions 242 and 338, based on the formula of land for peace. I know you are working very hard on the Palestinian front, as well, and I appeal to all concerned to work hard on this important exercise. Make the compromises concerned, to really be able to move the process forward.

I firmly believe that if eventually we do have peace in this region, a Middle East that is at peace will be a prosperous Middle East. A Middle East that is at peace, and not divided, will be a Middle East that will actually have a stronger influence within the world, and it is a day that I hope we can all look forward to.

But, of course, as we search for peace, and work for peace, it is important that all the countries in the region prepare their publics, and will use the right language: language of peace, language of understanding, and language with encouragement. That is also very important. Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.

Q: Mr. Annan, could you please tell us, are you going to work to implement quickly the other items over 425, such as deploying the UNIFIL in South Lebanon, and the Lebanese Army, also, in South Lebanon?"

PM Barak: In regard to the disagreements with the UN, we are going to clarify them, I believe, within the next 24 hours, I hope, or maybe 36 hours, but basically, we are determined to follow on with the implementation of 425 as far as Israel is concerned. On regard to the village [of Rajar], I believe that an effort will be made by all players, to keep the right way, namely, that human beings, who are Israeli citizens, will be able to not to be detached from their families, and that we will be able to find a proper, and practical solution to this issue.

Secy-Gen Annan: The purpose of my visit to Lebanon was precisely to deal with the question you raised, and I have had the chance to have very good discussions with the Lebanese leaders, and with my own troops, on the ground, and we do intend to implement our mandate fully, working with Lebanon. It began with a certification. We have to work with the Lebanese government to extend its authority over southern Lebanon, and we will move the troops to the border. The Lebanese government has indicated to me that already they’ve put in a thousand troops, and others will follow, as the UN also moves down, and we will re-enforce the UN troops on the ground.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, through your meeting with the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, do you envisage that Hizbullah has a role in helping maintain stability in southern Lebanon, and to the Prime Minister, if I may, since the Secretary-General mentioned the peacemaking on the other fronts, there seems to be an impression among some of your peace partners that because of your domestic political crisis, perhaps you will not have a government, and not be able to deliver on peace. Can you reassure them that you can go on with the peace process?

Secy-Gen Annan: Let me say that Hizbullah has been a player, and is a player in the south of Lebanon. I had, as you probably read through the press, we had a very good, and frank discussion, with the leaders, and that we requested that Hizbullah will cooperate fully with UNIFIL. To do our work effectively and to keep calm in that place we need the cooperation of all concerned – the government, and non-state actors. I also indicated to them, that when the UN troops move to the south, as I’ve mentioned to the Prime Minister and others, the Lebanese troops would also move in to the south. But they have already moved to the south administrators, police, gendarmerie who are very active and doing well. I did tell the Mr. Nasrallah that Hizbullah exercised restraint, responsibility, and discipline after the withdrawal, and that we would want to see that continue, and I’m sure from the indications that he gave me, that he intends to do it. Obviously he was concerned about violations, alleged violations, that we are looking into, and, as the Prime Minister said, UNIFIL is looking at it. We are here, and we are going to try and solve this, inside, very quickly.

PM Barak: There is no place for concern. We are determined to move forward on the peace process, on the Palestinian track and on others, and in a way, the troubles in the coalition are, at least partially, the result of our determination to move forward. We could easily have a much wider, much more comfortable government in Israel, in a way, much more stable – but without the opportunity to move so determinedly, towards peace. So we are committed to the real mission that the people of Israel put upon us: to change reality here, to put an end to the conflict of 100 years, to the extent that human beings are able to do that. We will, as long as it will not really put into danger our vital security and national interests.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, you were reluctant to meet with the villagers of Rajar, who came here to see you, and yet the UN is going to cause a tremendous human tragedy by separating families; is there no other way? And a second question, by meeting Sheikh Nasrallah yesterday, didn’t you make him an equal, legitimate partner for any solution in the region, or was this purpose?

Secy-Gen Annan: I don’t think you mean your last question, and so I’m not going to answer that one, but let me say with regard to the villagers from Rajar, that my senior representative, Undersecretary- General Prendergards has met with them. He’s the Undersecretary- General for political affairs. He’s a very senior person in the UN. We are sensitive to their conditions. I, myself, have written to the Prime Minister, the President of Lebanon, asking that the situation be treated humanely, and their human rights should be respected, and that they should be handled with sensitivity. The UN did not set out to create problem in Rajar. We had to use the cartographic evidence, the historic material that we got, both here in Israel and in London, and Paris, which helped to create the Blue Line. We went where the cartographic and other evidence took us, and it was not to deliberately create a problem.

In trying to calm the situation, or make peace, or deal with a crisis situation, I think, whether it is a Secretary-General or any serious mediator, has to talk to all those who have an impact on the situation, and can help bring about peace, and that it is in that spirit that I have been around this region, and met all those I have met. We have worked hard to achieve this situation in Lebanon, and I think we should work hard to maintain it. It is for this reason that I went to speak to Crown Prince Abdullah in Morocco, and to Teheran, to Egypt, and Jordan, and here, and to Lebanon, and tomorrow I go to Damascus. Everyone I met was in that spirit and so I’m not sure that I appreciate the inference from your question.

Q: I heard a report saying that the Rajar village would be under the custodianship of the UN and would become a territory. Is that a correct proposal, or just a news report?"

Secy-Gen Annan: I think it must be a new report, or it is a proposal, but it is not a Security Council decision, and I have not been mandated to do that, so it must be a news report. Thank you very much.  
 Joint Press Conference by PM Barak and UN Secretary-General Annan-21-Jun-2000
 Joint Press Conference by PM Barak and UN Secretary-General Annan-21-Jun-2000
The Israeli Withdrawal from Southern Lebanon: Special Update