It is very important that the Lebanese army also be accompanied by international forces that will enable it to reach the south in an organized fashion and guard the area once the Hizbullah are gone.

 Press conference by FM Livni after meeting with German FM Steinmeier

 

(Reuters)

Press conference by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni after meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Foreign Ministry, Jerusalem

[Note: FM Livni spoke in Hebrew – translated below. FM Steinmeier spoke in German – transcript not available.]

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: I would like to welcome my friend, the Foreign Minister of Germany, who has arrived in the region for his second visit in the short time since the crisis broke out, coming with the desire to help find a solution that will lead to a better future for the entire region. This visit to Israel comes after his visit to Lebanon, and we have, of course, exchanged ideas about the situation and about finding solution that will hold up over time.

This is an extremely difficult period for the Israeli people. Many people in the north of Israel have been practically living in shelters. Some have had to leave their homes because of Hizbullah’s attacks, IDF soldiers are fighting inside Lebanon and are also under attack by Hizbullah, and the question of where the region is headed depends, among other things, not only on Israel’s military actions but also on the decisions made by the international community and by Lebanese President Siniora and his government.

Therefore, our expectation, as we discussed, is that the international community will act so that the currrent IDF military action will be followed by a change in Lebanon – a change that will means that Hizbullah will no longer be in southern Lebanon and that the Lebanese army will deploy in southern Lebanon. In this context, the Lebanese Prime Minister’s announcement is definitely positive.

However, it is very important that the Lebanese army also be accompanied by international forces that will enable it to reach the south in an organized fashion and guard the area once the Hizbullah are gone. It is also important to pass a resolution that will impose an arms embargo on anyone transferring arms to Hizbullah or to any militia other than the Lebanese army; and, if we succeed in seeing these two resolutions implemented, and quickly – together with, of course, the uncompromising demand that the soldiers kidnapped in the same Hizbullah attack on Israel be returned – then we will see the beginning of a better future for the entire region, for Lebanon and the Lebanese and certainly for Israel as well. Thank you.

Q: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, we heard about the Cabinet decision a few minutes ago. Aren’t you concerned that perhaps this decision, coming at this time, when the international community is trying to reach a ceasefire arrangement, is liable to be interpreted as some kind of Israeli aggression and could hurt Israel in the international arena?

FM Livni: The Cabinet decision relates to both military and diplomatic moves. Israel has to act on these two planes. I have explained more than once in the past that, in conjunction with the military operation, I believe that we have an obligation and an interest in promoting the diplomatic process, the result of which will be the implementation of Resolution 1559, which means establishing Lebanese sovereignty over all of Lebanon, including, of course, the practical aspect of the deployment of the Lebanese army, with the addition of international forces and an embargo on arms transfers to Hizbullah to prevent its rearmament.

At the moment, discussions are being held. The international community seems to be in agreement with these principles. However, we should not be satisfied with a resolution on paper, as in the past, but should demand to see results in the field. Israel also announced that, as far as we are concerned, the faster the international community can make a decision and help the Lebanese government, through international forces, to deploy their army, the better also for us. We have no hidden agenda, we have no desire to prevent action by the international community by using military means. On the contrary, we are working together to ensure that a decision of this type is adopted, and the sooner the better. But as long as that doesn’t happen, this government is committed, and the commitment is to continue acting against Hizbollah.

From the outset, Resolutions 1559 and 1680, which we all are quoting, determined that the goal is to establish Lebanese sovereignty in all of Lebanon, including the dismantling of the militias. This naturally is a process, but it is essential to set a timeline to achieve this goal. For southern Lebanon, establishing Lebanese sovereignty meanss the deployment the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon. Until a few days ago, the Lebanese government’s position was that it does not have the power to do that, and, therefore, the international community initiated the idea – which, in our view, is very important – to bring in effective international forces alongside the Lebanese army. These forces would help the Lebanese army deal with this militia, this parallel army, Hizbullah, which for so many years has controlled Lebanon.

The idea is to replace Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, not to join it; to expel it from southern Lebanon – and for that, a resolution by the Lebanese government was needed. Indeed, such a resolution was passed, and we welcome it. Now what is needed from the international community is to help the Lebanese government and army fulfill their appointed task, through effective forces. All this is in addition to an arms embargo.

Regarding the question about the possibility of having German soldiers in the international force, this is a decision that will be made separately and independently by the German government. From the Israeli government’s point of view, of course we have no objection.