March 31st, 2007 15:15 EST
Lebanon, Ban Ki-moon stresses need for eventual permanent ceasefire
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today visited South Lebanon, where he voiced hope that a cessation of hostilities in place since the end of last year's 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah could be transformed into a permanent ceasefire.
Responding to questions at a press conference in Naqoura, Mr. Ban said both Israel and Lebanon showed interested in this goal. “It is important that the current cessation of hostilities could be transferred and developed into a permanent ceasefire. I know that Lebanese Government is very much interested.
“When I visited Israel, the Israeli Government also expressed such hope, that the current cessation of hostilities could be developed into an agreement of permanent ceasefire, and we are working for that,” he said.
“This area, Lebanon, unfortunately has been suffering from decades-long wars, and we hope that the Lebanese people and Government will be able to enjoy genuine freedom in a secure and peaceful land,” he said. “The United Nations is fully committed to support such efforts by the Lebanese people.”
He stressed the importance of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) engaging in “close cooperation with the Lebanese Armed forces” and having a “harmonious and cooperative relationship” with the local community.
Asked about challenges facing the mission, he acknowledged that there are “some potential threats” adding that in response “UNIFIL members will have to be continuously vigilant.” At the same time, he noted that situation is generally calm.
“We hope that, with the increased and enhanced capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces and close coordination with UNIFIL, we'll be seeing continuing peace and security here.”
Mr. Ban said in his meetings in recent days with Lebanese as well as Israeli officials, he was struck by their commitment to Security Council resolution 1701, which mandated an end to the war between Israel and Hizbollah and considerably strengthened UNIFIL.
“I was encouraged by the strong commitment of the Lebanese Government to fully comply with this resolution. When I visited Israel, I also urged the Israeli Government to fully comply with this resolution.”
He also voiced concern about reports of arms smuggling across the border. “I hope and urge that the parties concerned will fully comply with the Security Council resolution, and there needs to be an enhanced maritime capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to ensure that there will be no such smuggling activities,” he said.
“We are grateful to some members of the international community, particularly the German government who offered such assistance, and as Secretary-General I am going to discuss this matter with other member of the international community who may contribute such assistance.”