FM Livni met with the special United Nations team headed by special envoy Vijay Nambiar dispatched to the region by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

 FM Livni meets with special UN team


FM Livni addresses the press, July 18 (Reuters)

Statement by FM Tzipi Livni:

I would like to welcome the UN team to Israel.

Israel and the international community face a common threat from an axis of terror and hate: Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Israel and the international community also share a common goal: to end the control of the Hizbullah over the lives of Lebanese and Israelis and to bring an end to its attempts to threaten the peace and security of the region.

Therefore, it is in our mutual interest to ensure the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1559.

We discussed the most effective ways to achieve these objectives. This must, of course, include the effective deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces through the south, in place of Hizbullah, and the disarming of Hizbullah as a militia. And it must include a complete end to the shelling of Israeli cities. This is clearly required by Resolution 1559 and was reaffirmed in the G8 statement issued on Monday.

It is also our moral obligation as human beings to demand and ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Gilat Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

While we continue to act to defend our citizens, we intend to cooperate with the international community, with a view to ensuring a successful and effective resolution of the crisis.

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Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni told the press after meeting this morning (Tuesday, 18 July 2006) in Jerusalem with the special United Nations team dispatched to the region that, "The diplomatic process is not intended to reduce the window of opportunity for military operations, but will take place in parallel."

"We are beginning a diplomatic process in parallel to the military operations, which shall continue," she said. "The military objectives are to hit Hizbullah’s infrastructure and physical strength. The diplomatic process is not intended to reduce the time available for the IDF’s operations, but as an extension of it in order to avoid the need for additional operations in the future.

"The diplomatic objectives are long range. Until now the diplomatic activity focused – successfully – on achieving international support for the IDF operation; now we are moving in parallel to the next stage. The announcements of the G-8 and the European Union over the past two days demonstrate that Israel and the international community share a common understanding of the situation and want to achieve the same goals."

FM Livni said further that, "The common understanding is that Hizbullah bears responsibility for the escalation in the north, and that Hamas bears responsibility in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians. There is comprehensive agreement that a cease-fire alone is not enough, but also the unconditional return of the [abducted] soldiers and the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, in order to keep Hizbullah from establishing itself as the regional provocateur."

Regarding a possible cease-fire, Livni asserted that a cease-fire in itself is not the objective, but rather ensuring the implementation of 1559, so that Hizbullah does not return to southern Lebanon and rearm. "We must ensure that the suffering being endured by Israel’s citizens today is translated into no future suffering," she said.

FM Livni noted that, in her talks with the UN envoys, she stressed that, "We are talking about three kidnapped soldiers, whether by means of a tunnel in Gaza or an infiltration from Lebanon, for the purpose of abducting soldiers. We cannot stand for this and the international community does not condone it. We must remember that the international community, and not just Israel, is struggling with such situations throughout the world, and so it is in both Israel’s and the community’s interest to deliver a message to the terrorist organizations that this is not the way to achieve political objectives or to strengthen themselves."

Regarding the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, Livni asserted that, "There is a need to remove Hizbullah from the Lebanese border and to implement Resolution 1559; that is, to move the Lebanese Army south and to disarm Hizbullah. We must also prevent Iran and Syria from rearming Hizbullah in future. These are our diplomatic objectives and we will work to achieve them in cooperation with the international community. Our goals and those of the community are common ones – the question is how to implement them. The lesson of the past teaches that decisions are not enough, but that it is necessary to examine how to carry them out."

Livni noted Lebanon’s failure to implement 1559 in an attempt to avoid a confrontation with Hizbullah. "The IDF’s operations have weakened Hizbullah, and thus the Lebanese government can act more easily in many areas. The IDF’s operations have performed a service for the Lebanese government and the international community," she said.

Regarding the possibility of stationing an international force on Lebanon’s border with Israel, Livni stated: "Past experience with UNIFIL was not satisfactory. We shall examine what solutions are suitable for us. The criteria are: the implementation of 1559 and the Lebanese Army deployed in the south."