UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
following their Meeting
Jerusalem, October 10, 2000
PM Barak: We have just ended a meeting with Secretary General Annan. We are always thankful for the contribution that the Secretary General is personally making to the efforts to bring peace to our troubled region.
We first of all discussed the issue of the soldiers who have been abducted into Lebanon, and we expressed our demand that the UN or Red Cross authorities will get immediate, unconditional access to them to bring information about their situation, their health, and so on, and that we expect their immediate release, since the abduction itself was a clear-cut violation of international law after our pullout from Lebanon. We reiterate the fact that we hold Syria, as well as the Hizbullah and Lebanese government, but Syria as the dominant player in Lebanon, responsible for the overall quick resolution of this issue.
We feel that this is a major violation of the agreement and the spirit, and we of course keep to ourselves the right to respond at the time, place and means that we will find appropriate.
I believe that the visit of Secretary General Annan to the region is somehow contributing to the chances of the peace process as a whole, and he shared with us some of his impressions. I know that he is investing a lot of effort in trying to push it toward tranquility, and we appreciate it, of course.
Once again, we are thankful, Mr. Secretary, for your peace efforts. At the same time, we should tell you that we are at a crossroads, where the real decisions have to be made now.
Sec-Gen Annan: I think the Prime Minister has given you a gist of the issues that we discussed. I believe that, as the Prime Minister said, we are at a crossroads, but we do have a chance, we do have a window, however small it is, to be able to bring this situation under control. I think that we need to do so is to stop the violence and bring the discussions back to the bargaining table.
I know there is a demand and concern for a study or inquiry to be made into what happened, how it started and where he are going, and like everybody else, I believe this sort of study will be necessary. What we are now working on is the modalities. But that should not stop us from taking steps to bring the situation under control and return to the negotiating table.
I have made it clear that in these situations, it takes two to tango. Neither side can claim to have all the right on their side or all the wrong on their side. What is important is that we take steps and stop the bloodshed now.
The modalities, I’m sure, will be worked out for the study. There are different views, but I’m absolutely confident that in the not too distant future [it will be achieved], but we must stop the violence and move back to the table.
I will be going to the Lebanon from here, and I will have the chance to discuss the situation of the three soldiers who have been abducted. I have also had a chance to raise here in my previous visits and now with the authorities the situation of the Lebanese prisoners… The soldiers should not be harmed, they should be kept in good health, and I do agree with the Prime Minister that Red Cross should be given access to them immediately…
So let’s get to work, stop the violence, move back to the negotiating table. This region has suffered too much. There have been far too many killings and casualties, and I think we should really now find a way of moving forward once and for all. We are at the crossroads. Let’s make the right turn.
In response to a question about the three Israeli soldiers, the Secretary General added: I have not seen them personally, my envoy or the Red Cross has not seen them, but we are working on it. From the information we have received, I understand they are well and that they are being well treated. But we can be able to confirm this once we’ve had access to them, and we are working very hard on that…
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