In Paris, FM Livni discussed the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701, including the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers and the deployment of the international force in southern Lebanon.

Joint Press Conference by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy following their meeting with in Paris
23 August 2006

FM Livni: [Translated from Hebrew] Today’s visit in France is very important in my opinion, in light of the situation in Lebanon and the window of opportunities that has opened to make a dramatic change in Lebanon. Israel, the international community, France, and Prime Minister Siniora share a common interest. Israel and Lebanon have no quarrel. Israel was attacked purposefully from Lebanese territory by the Hizbullah over a month ago. Israel reacted to the attack just as any democratic country that strives to protect its citizens would have reacted. During the last month, Israel has been attacked by thousands of Hizbullah missiles launched at Israeli population centers. Israel decided to stop military operations only after it saw that the international community intends to do something significant to change the rules of the game in Lebanon.

We believe that Resolution 1701 represents the interests of the international community, as well as France and Lebanon; however, the real test will be in the outcome. It is mainly Siniora’s government and the international community that will be tested. In recent years, we have seen a positive process in Lebanon following the beginning of the implementation of UN Resolution 1559, led by France, but the second part of the resolution, that included disarming the militias in Lebanon and extending the sovereignty of the Lebanese government over the entire territory, was not implemented.

The price of the non-implementation of the previous resolution was paid by Israel and, unfortunately, by some of the citizens of Lebanon. If the previous resolution had been implemented, we would have spared ourselves all of the suffering of the past month.

Israel decided to accept the ceasefire and to cooperate with the international community in order to change the situation in Lebanon in favor of the citizens and the responsible leadership of Lebanon, which is certainly not represented by Hizbullah. The process is simple. The Lebanese army has to deploy in the southern part of Lebanon, together with strong and effective international forces. When this happens, the Israeli army can withdraw to Israel. There must be an arms embargo enforced in the strictest fashion in order to prevent the Hizbullah from rearming. The ultimate goal, shared by the international community, Siniora’s government and Israel, is a sovereign, democratic state free of militias, free of arms – one army, one state, one government. When this happens in Lebanon, and the Hizbullah ceases to be an armed militia, there is a chance that the entire region can live in peace.

Israel and Lebanon are not the only ones looking at what has just happened in Lebanon, but also all the extremist elements in the world. The resolve of the international community, the understanding that these resolutions are being implemented, can make a real change in the region. The international forces are being asked to help the Lebanese government change the situation in Lebanon – not to defend Israel. We hope that what we have here is a real window of opportunity to change the situation.

I would like to thank Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy for his remarks and his call to free the soldiers being held by Hizbullah. As long as Hizbullah is holding the soldiers captive, it is guilty of a gross violation of a Security Council resolution. I am grateful for the unequivocal appeal because this is a humanitarian situation; families are waiting for their children to come home, and right now they have no information about their fate, or even about their state of health, because the Hizbullah is not even allowing the Red Cross to visit them.

I conclude with the hope that out of the violence that was forced upon us during the last month, we will emerge into a better future for the entire region.

Q: Ms. Livni, many Israelis and French do not understand what Israel achieved in this war.

FM Livni: I hope that the end of the process will be a victory for Israel and the international community over the forces that want to ignite the region. After Hizbullah’s attack on Israel, the decision we had to make was not simple. The easy decision would have been to attack Lebanon. We chose a much harder option: to attack Hizbullah, which sought cover in the midst of the civilian population. We chose not to harm the Lebanese government, because of the importance we see in strengthening Siniora’s government and moderate elements within Lebanon. The second difficult decision we made was to halt the operation and to adopt UN Resolution 1701. We could have continued the military operation, as a large part of the Israeli public expected us to do. We decided to give the Lebanese government and the international community another chance to change the situation through other means. Of course, Israel will always uphold its right to defend itself.

Q: Ms. Livni, what makes you think that Resolution 1701 can bring peace to the region when 1559 has not yet been implemented?

FM Livni: If Resolution 1559 had been implemented, we would be in a better situation today. It included two basic principles: disarming the militias and extending Lebanese sovereignty over the whole area. I see in 1701 a plan of action that can implement these principles. But Resolution 1701 did not remain at the level of principles; it is much more practical. It determines the role of each and how it should be implemented. It also determines effective international involvement. What is more, the present resolution was passed is at a point in time when both Hizbullah and Lebanon understand that they cannot go on as they did in the past, following Israel’s military operation.

There are also positive signs. For the first time in decades, Lebanon has decided to deploy its army in the south, something that was not done previously. For the first time, an embargo has been imposed on arms supplies to Hizbullah. However, we must still answer the most important question: Will this resolution really be implemented? Time is working against those who wish to see the resolution implemented. The situation right now is extremely sensitive and extremely explosive. The Israeli army is still inside Lebanon, the embargo has not yet been enforced, and therefore the international community should work very quickly, because as long as Hizbullah translates international activity as hesitation, it will be all the more difficult to implement the resolution in the future.

Q: Are you formally asking France to take action for the release of the kidnapped soldiers?

FM Livni: The demand to release the captives appears in 1701, which states that this is part of the reason for the outbreak of the conflict. It demands the immediate and unconditional release of the soldiers, and France has reiterated the demand to release the captives, as stated in the resolution.

Statement by French FM Philippe Douste-Blazy
(Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
[Translated from French]

FM Douste-Blazy: France accords very great importance to dialogue with Israel, particularly in such troubled times and during this crucial period for achieving the stabilization of the situation between Israel and Lebanon.

Mrs. Livni has informed me of her concerns, which are entirely legitimate security concerns on the part of Israel. We are seeking to achieve a sustainable ceasefire which will have two consequences: on the one hand, it must allow Israel to live in complete security – which is a legitimate demand – and on the other hand, it must preserve the sovereignty of the Lebanese State.

We both agree when saying that only the fully comprehensive application of UNSCR 1701 by all parties, including Hezbollah, will enable us to achieve the desired outcome. Today, we continue to call for the release of all the Israeli prisoners as well as the withdrawal of the Israeli army so that the Lebanese army can be deployed. These are the two major political facts of the past week.

We agree with Mrs. Livni that this dual process – the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon and the withdrawal of the Israeli army – can take place only with the support of a reinforced UNIFIL. It is vital that the troops arriving to reinforce UNIFIL, whose mandate must be clear and clearly defined, are able to deploy as rapidly as possible and in sufficient numbers on the ground. This process has already begun, notably with the arrival of a French contingent.

Consultations are currently under way with all our partners, and particularly with our European partners. Moreover, I will attend a meeting with my European counterparts on Friday.

We also discussed with Mrs. Livni the idea of renewed efforts to find a wider solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The road is difficult and treacherous, but France will always be at the side of the Israelis as well as the Palestinians, to surmount obstacles, overcome reservations and resolutely committing herself to negotiation, the only course which will enable the just and lasting peace we so profoundly hope to see established.

To go back to the questions put to Mrs. Livni and before answering the question just addressed to me, I should say that UNSCR 1701 commits both the Israeli and the Lebanese governments as well as all the parties and the international community to ensuring that the sovereignty of Lebanon is respected and that the sea and air blockade of that country is lifted.

Finally, it is essential for Lebanon to undertake to respect the embargo on arms deliveries and, eventually, that the militia forces are disarmed.

Now, in response to your question, I should say that France wanted to be the first country to contribute to the reinforcement of UNIFIL. President Chirac immediately decided to send another 200 troops to reinforce the 200 already there. I can tell you that we already have 1,700 men engaged in Operation Baliste, on French naval vessels off the Lebanese coast. They are enabling much of the delivery of supplies to UNIFIL. Furthermore, I should stress that we have asked the UN for information and clarification on the reinforced UNIFIL.

We have worked towards four objectives: to clarify the missions of a reinforced UNIFIL, to define properly the most appropriate chain of command, to define, of course, UNIFIL’s rules of engagement, and, finally, to define the guarantees of security.

President Chirac will soon announce which units will be joining UNIFIL. He has already responded, and was the first to do so, without hesitation, to the United Nations request for the 3,000 to 3,500 troops considered necessary in this emergency phase.

I note with pleasure that the French demand was accepted by the presidency of the European Union, which is currently held by Finland. On Friday I will attend a ministerial meeting to discuss which European partners are willing to participate. We will also cover political, military and humanitarian reactions to the Lebanese crisis within the 25.

As you know, we have always said that we would examine carefully the composition, sharing-out and balance of a reinforced UNIFIL.

Q: I think I understand the region: can we not follow the United States’ line – imposing sanctions on Iran if the enrichment programme is not halted? Would there not be a double benefit in terms of EU interests: dissipating the fear that this nuclear enrichment programme is perhaps engendering, and showing that Iran must respect the sovereignty of Lebanon, notably by refraining from financing Hizbullah and providing it with arms, as it is suspected of doing?

FM Douste-Blazy: In the case of Iran, you will be aware that the response to the ambitious proposals put to her by Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France and Germany arrived yesterday, via our ambassadors in Tehran. It is a long and complex document and we are in the process of studying it. We’ll comment later. For the present, we have asked for a meeting with our European partners, particularly with the members of the E3 as well as with Javier Solana.

I heard Mr. Larijani say yesterday that he was ready to resume negotiations. I would like to repeat that France is ready to negotiate and that, as we have always said and as Mr. Larijani very well knows, the return to the negotiating table is linked to the suspension of the uranium enrichment programme.

Q: Several weeks ago you somewhat surprised the Israelis and others by saying that Iran was, I quote, "a stabilizing force in the region”. Now that Iran has decided to continue with her nuclear programme, is this still your view? As you are well aware, Iran is arming Hezbollah, among others.

FM Douste-Blazy: Let’s not confuse the issues. In the case of Iran, we must respond – and indeed we have done so – firmly to the Iranian nuclear issue. I remind you that France chaired the UN Security Council on 31 July 2006. On that occasion, we chose to vote unanimously, apart from one voice, for a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, article 41, with regard to her nuclear programme. We must therefore respond to the Iranian nuclear issue with the utmost firmness. I said a moment ago that the hand is always extended, that negotiation is possible as long as it is desired by the other side. The Iranians know the rules of the game; sensitive nuclear activities must first be suspended.

With regard to the Israeli-Lebanese conflict, as President Chirac said in an interview in the "Le Monde” newspaper, either Iran wants to play an important role in the region – in which case we say that this is precisely the time to show it, to show that the region can be stabilized – or she declines to do so, and instead takes the risk of isolating the international community. The situation is clear.

Q: You have many issues being discussed with Mrs. Livni; you exchange views on a wide variety of topics. Because of this friendship between France and Israel, you are also able to voice your disagreements over Israel, such as the recent policy of kidnapping elected representatives. Did you raise this matter today? Did you talk about the trial of Mr. Dweik? Will you also express your disapproval concerning this policy?

FM Douste-Blazy: We were concerned when we learned that Nasser Shaer, the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, and Mahmud al-Ramhi, the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Parliament, had been arrested. We stated clearly our position over these arrests. We said that only a political process founded on dialogue will put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On 3 July, the European Union expressed its views on the first arrests of Palestinian ministers and members of parliament that occurred at the end of June. The arrest of Mr Doweik, the President of the Palestinian Parliament currently on trial in an Israeli court, unfortunately derives from the same logic that, in our view, contributes nothing to the diminution of tension or to the strengthening – which is so desirable, especially for Israel – of moderate forces among the Palestinians.

Q: Today, Syria declared that the deployment of a reinforced UNIFIL on her borders would be a hostile act. What was your response?

FM Douste-Blazy: On the matter of borders, I would first like to say that at no time does a reinforced UNIFIL have a mission to impose peace; its mission is to assist and support the Lebanese forces in southern Lebanon. The reinforced UNIFIL has two clearly distinct objectives: the first is to support the Lebanese army in its deployment and the second is to help that army maintain the embargo on arms supplies, on all the country’s borders. Therefore UNSCR 1701 must be applied. And moreover, as you mention Syria, it is also appropriate for me to say to that country that it is also covered by UNSCR 1595.