September 14th, 2006 03:32 EST
Israel-Hizbollah war showed need for a wider Middle East accord
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the recent conflict in Lebanon had been a “wake-up” call to the governments he visited during his recent diplomacy in the region, highlighting the need for a wider Middle East peace settlement.
“Throughout my visit almost every leader I met felt that Lebanon was a wake-up call and we should really focus on stabilizing the situation…and the relations between Lebanon and Israel, but not stop there, build on from there to deal with other conflicts in the region: in Palestine, the Golan Heights,” he told a news conference in New York.
Mr. Annan, who last week returned from an 11-day trip to the region that included stops in Lebanon, Israel, Syria and elsewhere, also reiterated his belief that these countries are fully supporting Security Council resolution 1701 that ended the month of fighting on 14 August.
“I was really encouraged by the seriousness with which Governments are pressing ahead with implementation [of the resolution]. In both Lebanon and Israel I left convinced that the governments are determined to implement the resolution,” he said, noting that the “ceasefire has held and is holding.”
In a related development on the ground in Lebanon, the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL) said today that Lebanese troops had begun moving into the general areas of Al Qusayr, Al Qantarah, At Tayyabah, Markaba and the areas west of Hula following the continued Israeli withdrawal.
UNIFIL also said that it now has almost 4,000 troops from 10 countries in its theatre of operations, while a battalion from Spain – initially made up of around 650 troops – will arrive later this week at the southern port of Tyre. As part of resolution 1701, the UN force will be increased to a maximum strength of 15,000.
The UN’s Interim Maritime Task Force is also continuing to assist the Lebanese Navy in monitoring the sea border, and now has eight vessels on patrol (five from Italy, and one each from France, Greece and the United Kingdom).
At the request of the Lebanese Government, a group of UNIFIL military, police, customs and border experts has also started to review security measures at other entry points in the country, and these experts are working closely with local forces.
The group began today with a tour of the Beirut seaport, led by Hassan Korajtem, the president and Director General of the port and Talal Mahd Itani, the regional customs manager. They were shown how Lebanon keeps track of incoming ships, identifies containers and verifies contents.