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UNSG Annan says "we must move forward"


Relieved at Middle East summit outcome, Annan says "we must move forward"

17 October -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed relief at the results of the just-concluded Middle East summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and urged all concerned to help foster calm so that peace talks could resume.

In a statement issued at the conference site, Mr. Annan said he was "relieved and thankful" that Israeli and Palestinian leaders had "stepped back from the abyss and renewed their commitment to resolve their differences by peaceful means."

But while noting that silencing the guns was "a real achievement," the Secretary-General warned that "language can be violence too" and appealed to the leadership on both sides, to all Israelis and Palestinians and to the wider international community to weigh their words carefully. "For words can inflame or soothe, and everyone needs a restoration of calm and quiet so as to create the best possible atmosphere for a resumption of peace talks," he said.

The Sharm El-Sheikh summit, which was sponsored by United States President Bill Clinton and hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, produced agreement on security cooperation, on renewing the peace process and on a committee of fact-finding to inquire into recent tragic events and consider how to prevent their recurrence.

Mr. Annan, who attended yesterday's plenary session and met with all of the principals, said the process had not been easy, with feelings running high on both sides amid deep mutual mistrust. "There are wounds in the families and communities concerned that may take a generation to heal," he said. "But we must move forward, painful though it is, so that the children and youth of today -- angry and frustrated as they are -- can have a better world to live in."

Drawing lessons from the past few days, the Secretary-General said that clearly, there could be no lasting security without lasting peace. "That is why we need to look beyond the violence and bitterness, the pain and the hurt, beyond even the outcome of today's summit, to a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in a just and lasting peace."

Earlier in the day, those involved in the talks had held a final meeting in the plenary hall. Following opening remarks by President Mubarak, President Clinton then laid out the broad outlines of the agreement, and thanked each of the principals for their role in achieving it. Of the Secretary-General, he said, " I want to thank Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been here now in the region for more than a week and who has worked tirelessly to bring an end to violence and to make this meeting possible."

Prior to the plenary meeting, Mr. Annan was briefed by President Clinton on the outcome of last night's meetings, which had gone to the early hours of the morning.

Afterwards, the Secretary-General met a number of times with the principal players, including President Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, the European Union's envoy to the talks, Javier Solana, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Just prior to the plenary meeting, Mr. Annan then held a final meeting with President Clinton, President Mubarak and Prime Minister Barak.




17 October 2000, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt - on conclusion of Middle East Summit
I am relieved and thankful that here today in Sharm-El-Sheikh Israeli and Palestinian leaders, under the tireless chairmanship of Presidents Mubarak and Clinton, have stepped back from the abyss and renewed their commitment to resolve their differences by peaceful means.

The Sharm-El-Sheikh Summit has produced agreement in three vital areas: on security cooperation; on renewing the peace process; and on a committee of fact-finding to inquire into recent tragic events and how to prevent their recurrence. It has not been easy. Feelings run high on both sides. Mutual mistrust is deep. There are wounds in the families and communities concerned that may take a generation to heal.

But we must move forward, painful though it is, so that the children and youth of today - angry and frustrated as they are - can have a better world to live in. One of the lessons of the past few days is that there can be no lasting security without lasting peace. That is why we need to look beyond the violence and bitterness, the pain and the hurt, beyond even the outcome of today's summit, to a future in which Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in a just and lasting peace.

Silencing the guns, ending the violence, is a real achievement. But language can be violence too. I also appeal to the leadership on both sides, to all Israelis and Palestinians, and to the wider international community to weigh their words carefully. For words can inflame or soothe, and everyone needs a restoration of calm and quiet so as to create the best possible atmosphere for a resumption of peace talks.

Comments to the press following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, 15 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

(The Secretary-General was accompanied by Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa.)

Moussa: The President received the Secretary-General. A thorough discussion took place concerning the conference preparation and the importance of having that conference, if held, succeed. It should succeed. The situation is very, very serious. It's still very tense in the occupied territories. And [they discussed] the point the President stressed, the point on withdrawal, that the Israeli forces should withdraw from the territories, from inside, and end the blockade around the cities. This is very important in order to defuse the situation. This is the goal of the conference and [inaudible].

SG: I think the Foreign Minister has given you a clear indication of what I discussed with the President, but since we don't have too much time, maybe we should take one or two questions, and thank you very much for your patience.

Q: We haven't heard of any role of the Security Council; it's always crippled with vetoes.

SG: I think the Security Council has discussed this issue and passed Resolution 1323 on the developments in the region. But I think they also realise that important developments were taking place on the ground. There were attempts to bring the parties together, and I'm happy to say that that has succeeded. So they did not want to do anything that will complicate the delicate efforts that were going on, on the ground. But they have passed resolutions, they have been seized of the matter and they're following it very, very closely.

Q: Mr. Foreign Minister, could I ask you a question please? When you saw the demonstrations outside the mosque on Friday, Al-Azhar, you saw the demonstrations on television in the Gulf States, in Amman. Did that worry you about political stability in the region? You've seen it in your country; you've seen it all around the region.

Moussa: Indeed, it should worry us that the region is protesting and is in a state of anger, because of what took place in the Palestinian occupied territories. We are also angry, not only the people in the streets or in the mosques, but we officials, we are all angry. We cannot accept what took place. That is why, in our invitation to have the conference, the conference has one goal to achieve. It's to go back to normalcy, which means, by necessity, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Palestinian towns and cities and from around those Palestinian territories, because we believe that moving the Israeli army into those territories is a clear-cut violation of all the agreements that have been arrived at in the last few years within the activities of the peace process. This is a cardinal point.

Q: But does it threaten political stability in moderate states like Egypt?

Moussa: I should say that the Israeli actions indeed threaten the stability in the whole region and threaten the prospects of a just peace, of a lasting peace, and the possibilities of the peace process itself succeeding, let alone achieving meaningful results.

SG: If I may add something to that. I think that it is extremely urgent that we take every step to bring the crisis under control, stop the violence and bring the situation to normalcy and hopefully get a dialogue going and get the parties talking. This crisis is not limited to the Palestinian territories and Israel. As you heard the Foreign Minister, it is a crisis that has affected this region. But it is broader than that. We've seen demonstrations outside this region, in Indonesia, even in the United States. It is going to affect global economic growth. Oil prices have hit their highest level in ten years. It is going to affect all countries, rich and poor. We've all seen what is happening in stock markets around the world. This is an urgent and major crisis for all of us. And that is why I, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, have devoted so much time trying to work with President Mubarak and President [Bill] Clinton to get this conference going, so that we can do whatever we can to bring the situation under control, to stop the killing.

I've seen so many innocent civilians dying. And as I said, I spent a week in the region. I've walked around the place. I've talked to Israelis and Palestinians. I've looked at the fear, the anxiety, the wariness in their eyes and they don't want this. This situation is not good for Israel, it's not good for Palestine, it's not good for the region and it has to stop. And we are going to do our best to succeed.

Comments to the press before meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, 15 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, could you just tell us how you think the summit will help?

SG: I think we've all seen the suffering, the tragedy, the killings and what is going on in the region. And I think we have a grave responsibility to do all we can to bring the violence to an end, to try and stabilise the situation and eventually get dialogue and the peace process going. I would like to thank President [Bill] Clinton for sponsoring this summit and President Mubarak for hosting it. I think they're doing the region and the world a great favour. And we will all work very hard to attain our objective.

Q: Can you afford to fail here?

SG: I don't think it's a choice. We don't have that option.

Comments following a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, 14 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

SG: I think we're going to try and organise the summit as quickly as possible. But as you know, those leading the mediation and the negotiations are the Americans with President [Bill] Clinton personally engaged. And I'm extremely happy that President [Hosni] Mubarak has agreed to host this conference and bring everybody here for us to try and bring the violence to an end and bring the crisis under control.

I think it's a unique opportunity; it's a grave responsibility and I hope we will succeed. We should succeed. We cannot afford to fail. As to when the summit would be, I think it is going to be held as soon as possible, but we shouldn't forget that not everybody is in the region. And President Clinton and his team have to organize themselves and come across the Atlantic. So the meeting probably will be Monday morning.

Q: What is on the agenda of the summit?

SG: It's not a press conference.

Comments to the press upon leaving the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 14 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

Q: Can you say where we are in terms of this summit? Is it going to happen?

SG: It is going to happen. I had a conversation with Chairman [Yasser] Arafat this morning at 10:05, and he has agreed to come and he will be there. And I'm leaving President [Bill] Clinton and President [Hosni] Mubarak to work out the details. And so, we're going to have a summit very shortly.

Q: Do you think you can get the two sides to agree to a truce, or can you move the peace process itself forward?

SG: I think at the minimum, as I said last night, it is not unusual in situations like this to have a cease-fire, the cessation of hostilities, for the period leading in to the summit, and during the summit, and then try to make it a permanent cease-fire and turn it around. And I have asked both sides to stop firing [in the period] now up to the summit. And [at] the summit, one of the things we'll try to concretise will be a cease-fire and other issues that President Clinton has on the table.

Q: Given the animosity on both sides now, do you really think that's possible?

SG: We shall find out. I think usually you make peace not with friends, but with enemies, and sooner or later you have to talk. And I think the parties will need to sit together to talk, and I'm quite hopeful we will be able to stop the killing.

I've been here for about a week. As I walk around the streets, I've looked in to the eyes of people, Israelis, Palestinians, and I see a pain, the anxiety, the suffering. They want to end this thing, they want to live in peace, and I hope we can bring this to an end. Whatever little contribution we can make, we are determined to do that.

Q: Sir, two questions. Were there any preconditions for this summit to take place, on any side? And critics say this could be really bad if it doesn't pan out, if there is a flop.

SG: There were no preconditions. There were suggestions and certain demands, but we did discuss it with the parties. And there are no conditions. The only condition is what I have indicated, we should stop the firing, we should stop shooting, to give peace a chance.

You talk of a flop, implying one is taking a risk. When so many lives are at risk, when so much killing is going on, when there is so much chaos and sufferings, isn't risk worth it? And if we don't take the risk of coming to the conference, what do we do? Let it continue? Thank you.

Press encounter after meeting with Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, Gaza City, 13 October 2000 (unofficial transcript)

(Nabil Sha'ath, President Arafat's Minister of Planning, addressed the press first)

Nabil Sha'ath: His Excellency the Secretary-General, Mr. Annan, had a very fruitful meeting with President Arafat. I think it was fundamental that this meeting looked into this question of ending this confrontation and of making it possible for a summit to succeed.

I would like to say that President Arafat and the Palestinian leadership and people value very much the efforts made by His Excellency the Secretary-General and will be extremely happy to see him, if the summit succeeds, participate in that summit, representing the United Nations, the international community, and international legality.

(A Palestinian journalist asked for the answer in Arabic, which was then given)

SG: Thank you very much. Let me say that I have had a very, very useful meeting with President Arafat, and I think we have moved forward. We have the chance to cover a whole range of issues - the tragedy of his people, his pain, and the situation in which they find themselves. He talked to me about shortages. Earlier, they had spoken to me about shortages of medical supplies. I spoke to Prime Minister Barak and [Acting] Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and they have assured me that they will lift the blockade for medication to come in. I have been told that there are short supplies of food and other items, which I will be raising. I wasn't aware of that until I got here.

But I think what is important is that we have a chance, we have a chance in the next 48 to 72 hours to sit around the table to try and deal with this situation, to try and end the violence and bring the crisis under control.

The whole world will be focussed on that summit. They have been following events here, and they are all pained by the deaths, the injuries, the chaos and the suffering of the people and the wounded ones - both Israelis and Palestinians.

I have looked at the faces and at the eyes of the people since I came here - the Palestinians and the Israelis - the anxiety, the concern on their faces. And we have an obligation to bring this to an end. We can either continue this conflict. We can either continue the shooting, which is no way to solve the problem. We have the chance to go to Egypt and resolve it.

And all the other leaders who have been invited to the conference have accepted to come. Tonight, I think we have made progress. And it is my own conviction and feeling that President Arafat has indicated he is in principle in agreement. He has to have some additional consultations with his leadership. He will be calling me tonight with his decision. I firmly believe that that decision will be positive and we will see him at that summit. And we will all have an opportunity to settle this issue.

And I want to thank all the leaders who have devoted so much attention to this, particularly President Mubarak, who is going to host this conference, and President Clinton who has been on the phone with me constantly, King Abdullah [of Jordan], Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and many others. And of course today you all read the strong statement from the European Union - 15 nations in Europe speaking as one - saying we want to see this end, we want to see normality returned, we want to see the killing stop, we want to save the lives of Palestinians and Israelis who are caught in this situation.

And I am looking forward to that summit and I think we should be able to make progress there.

Q: Is there a specific date for the summit? And who is going to attend that summit?

SG: I expect the summit to take place in the next 48 hours. On the participation, President Clinton and President Mubarak are discussing it, but I think the participation will be to the satisfaction of everyone.

Q: Do you consider East Jerusalem and the Shebaa area occupied areas by the Israelis?

SG: The Security Council has resolutions which deal with that - 242 and 338 - which deal with land for peace, and has made its position and has made statements in the past which are clear.

I was very much involved in the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and we did draw a Blue Line - a blue line which is to be respected by both parties and I think it has generally been respected. We have had incidents on the border, there have been violations, which should not be tolerated. And I have appealed to both parties to respect that blue line. (A journalist then asked a question of Mr. Sha'ath in Arabic, which he answered in Arabic) The Secretary-General who had the question and answer interpreted for him then commented.

SG: I would want to say that as is usual in these situations, when talks are going on in an attempt to settle a conflict like this, it is not unusual that a cessation of hostilities and cease fires are arranged during the period leading up to the summit, during the summit, so that at the summit one can try and firm it up and make it permanent. And I hope we will succeed in this. And I am quite confident that this cease fire can be achieved and the summit can go ahead and that we will make it permanent at the table. At the summit, obviously, there are lots of grievances on the Palestinian side, and the Israelis would also have their grievances to put on the table. All issues will be on the table, and the idea of the summit is to resolve these issues, resolve them quickly, so that the situation that prevails in this territory, in this area, can be changed.

Q: The Palestinians talk about not just a cease fire, but they claim, and probably correctly, that they are under siege. They can't travel between towns, the border crossings are closed - when you talk about a cease fire - are you talking about a lifting of these restrictions or just a cessation of the fighting?

SG: First of all, I have indicated that ... at the summit all issues will be on the table, including the issues you've mentioned. But the minimum we need is a cessation of hostilities and cease fire for one to go to the table and talk. And I think that should be done and I think it is going to be done.

Press encounter on entering King David Hotel, Jerusalem, 13 October 2000

Q: There have been reports today that there will be a summit this weekend in Egypt to try to end the violence and bring the crisis here under control. What have you heard about that and do you think it might happen?

SG: Yes, I do think there could be a summit. As you know, I've been in constant contact with the leaders involved, and there is a general readiness to meet. We are now waiting for final word from President Arafat.

I've spoken with him twice today, and my sense is that he will attend, since he is as determined as all of us to end the chaos, stop the killing and save the people from further suffering.

Press encounter by the Secretary-General of the United Nations after his meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Beirut, 12 October 2000

SG: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

Once again I come to Beirut and the region at a critical time. As all of you know I spent the last few days in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Jerusalem trying to work with Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat to calm down the violence, to stop the violence. I think there has been far too many needless deaths and we need to do whatever we can to stop it. I don't think anyone is going to win this game. Israelis are losers, Palestinians are losers, we are all losers, and in the region as well as the world. And we need to do whatever we can to bring the bloodshed to the end. I had the opportunity in Israel and in Gaza to offer my condolences and deep sympathy to the families of those who have lost their loved ones and I hope our efforts will succeed. I know that there have been some nasty incidents on the ground this morning. I am in constant touch and I expect to go back this afternoon. In the meantime I hope that the security chiefs will meet in the region. I understand that Mr. [George] Tenet, the head of CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], has joined them and so we hope that they will be able, sitting together, to devise means of stopping this killing. You are also aware that with the abduction of the three soldiers in the South, that has also been an issue very much in the headlines. I am also aware of the 19 Lebanese prisoners who have been in Israeli jails for quite some time. This is an issue I see your government notes I have taken up with the Israeli authorities and we are pursuing that as well. I'll take your questions.

Q:(Translation from Arabic) What is the UN Secretary-General's position in this crisis, while he accuses Lebanon of violating Security Council Resolution 425, especially as there is a dispute regarding the implementation of this resolution and that the three Israeli soldiers were captured inside Lebanese territory?

SG: Let me say that I worked with your Government and the Government of Israel on the withdrawal from southern Lebanon. As part of that exercise we drew a Blue Line, the line of withdrawal, and requested both governments to respect the line and not to violate that line. The two governments wrote to me and to the Security Council, indicating that they had reservations, some reservations, with the line drawn but they will respect the Blue Line. And of course as part of that agreement, it was also agreed that the Shebaa Farms was not part of the UNIFIL area and the area that had to be vacated in compliance with 425. We have since then reported many Israeli violations whenever they cross a line, whether it's a truck or a lonely soldier, and you've always expected us to report violations. I made it clear from the beginning that we will report violations or will call it so regardless of who violated it. Our information is that those who picked up the three soldiers crossed the Blue Line and it is a violation. And just as when Israelis cross the Blue Line, I call it a violation. I think it is legitimate to indicate that it is a violation.

Q: Al-Hayat: President Assad said that the Shebaa Farms are Lebanese territories. Is it enough to say that Israel has to withdraw from this area?

SG: I think we have to base ourselves on the documents and the report to the Security Council and the exchange of letters I had with the two governments Lebanon and Israel, that led to the withdrawal of Israelis from the South. And I think in the report and in the understandings with the governments we indicated that Shebaa Farms for our purposes was in Syria and that it was covered by UNDOF not by UNIFIL. This does not exclude whatever arrangements Lebanon and Syria will make in the future as to the status of that particular territory. Now the withdrawal is done we've been grateful that it has been relatively quiet except for some stone-throwing that we are trying to bring under control. We are now trying to work with international donors to raise money for the reconstruction of the South, to develop the economy of the South and I hope the international community will give and give generously for this essential task because the people of the South need to be given the hope, the expectation that they can live peaceful and prosperous lives and I will continue to work with the Government of Lebanon for that.

Q: CNN: Can we get some reaction or confirmation by the Israeli army that four Israeli soldiers have been taken prisoners by Palestinian policemen in Ramallah, territory A within the past short period and how the issue of those Israelis in Palestinian hands and Israeli soldiers in Hizbullah hands. What do you think of this whole situation?

SG: I don't have the full report but I have got indication that something like that has happened and of course this doesn't facilitate my task, in fact it does complicate the issues we are trying to resolve. So now if that report proves to be correct we are dealing with several sets of prisoners, if you wish, or abducted individuals. You have the 19 Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, which has been raised and we have been trying to work on. We then have the three Israeli soldiers who are in the hands of Hizbullah. And now you indicate there are four Israelis in the hands of Palestinians. All this complicates the work we are trying to do immensely but whilst it complicates it, I hope it does not mean that we will not be able to find our way out of this difficult and messy situation.

Q: Reuters Do you have any information about the three Israeli soldiers captured. Are they well and alive?

SG: None of my people have seen them yet and as far as I know, the International Red Cross has not seen them. I have made a request that access should be given to the international Red Cross or one of my representatives to see them, to be able to indicate that they are well and they're being well looked after. And I think that the Red Cross under its mandate has the right to visit individuals in those conditions without any conditions and I hope that request will be honored.

Q: Al-Jazira: Do you have any message from Mr. Barak to Lebanon or Hizbullah concerning the conditions of the negotiations for the detainees?

SG: I didn't bring any message.

Beirut, 12 October 2000 - on violence in the West Bank

Statement by the Secretary-General The news of the West Bank violence this morning was chilling. It comes on top of two weeks of tragedy, during which over a hundred people were killed and a thousand wounded - mostly Palestinians but also Israelis. We are at risk of seeing a dangerous situation escalate to a crisis that could destabilize an entire region.

I appeal to all - leaders and citizens alike - to stop and think about what they are doing today and what kind of tomorrow they want for their children. Violence breeds violence. I urge you to opt for restraint.

Yesterday, I announced the decision by the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to convene an urgent meeting of the trilateral security committee chaired by the United States. The need for such a meeting is now all the more urgent.

I have cut short my visit to Lebanon to return to Israel and to Gaza for consultation with both sides.

In the meantime, I want to express my deep sadness at the suffering and loss of so many victims of this chaos, and once again call on all to respect life, renounce violence and return to rational discourse.

Secretary-General says trilateral security meeting important step towards cessation of hostilities in Middle East

Following is the text of a statement issued tonight (11 October 2000) by the Office of the Spokesman of Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General announced tonight that Palestinian and Israeli officials have assured him that a meeting is being convened at the highest level of a trilateral security committee to deal with current unrest. This meeting will take place at the earliest date, possibly Thursday, 12 October.

This committee, which was set up as a result of the Wye River Accords in 1998, is made up of senior security officials of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States (chair). It apparently has not before met at its highest level.

This agreement comes as a result of the intense contacts the Secretary- General has had over the past 48 hours with Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat, and concerned heads of State and Government.

The Secretary-General feels this is an important step towards the cessation of violence which he hopes, in turn, will lead to a resumption of the peace process.

Press Conference Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Jerusalem, 10 October 2000

Prime Minister Barak: Good evening. We've just ended a meeting with Secretary-General Annan. We are always thankful for the contribution that the Secretary-General is personally making to the efforts to bring peace to our troubled region.

We, first of all, discussed the issue of the soldiers that had been abducted into Lebanon. And we expressed our demand that the U.N. or Red Cross authorities will get an immediate, unconditional access to them, to bring information about their situation, their health, and so on, and that we expect their immediate release, since the abduction itself was a clear-cut [violation] of the international law.

After our pullout from Lebanon, we, of course, reiterated the fact that we hold Syria - as well as the Hizbollah and Lebanese Government , but Syria as the dominant player in Lebanon - responsible for the overall quick resolution of this issue. We feel that this is a major violation of the agreement and the spirit and we, of course, keep to ourselves the right to respond at the time, place and means that we will find appropriate.

I believe that the visit of Secretary-General Annan to the region is somehow contributing to the chances of the peace process as a whole. I know that he visited the Palestinians, and he shared with us some of his impressions. And I know that he invested a lot of effort in trying to push it towards tranquility. And we appreciate it, of course. Once again, we are thankful Mr. Secretary for your prolonged contribution to the peace effort. At the same time, we should tell you that we are at a crossroad where the real decision has to be made now.

SG: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I think Prime Minister has given you a gist of the issues that we discussed. And last night, I had the chance of talking to some of you, explaining why I came and also gave a message to the public. I believe that, as the Prime Minister said, we are at a crossroad, that we do have a chance, we do have a window, however small it is, to be able to bring the situation under control.

I think what we need to focus on, is to stop the violence and bring the discussions back to the bargaining table. I know there is a demand and concern for a study or inquiry to be made into what happens, how it started and where we are going. And everbody has agreed this sort of study will be necessary. What we are now working on is the modalities; but that should not stop us from taking steps to bring this situation under control and move forward to the negotiating table. I have made it clear that in these situations, it takes two to tango. Neither side can claim to have all the right on their side or all the wrong on their side. What is important is that we take steps and stop the bloodshed now.

The modalities, I'm sure, will be worked out for the study. There are different views, but I am absolutely confident that in the not too distant future that could be worked out. So let's focus on the first things first and move forward and stop the violence and move back to the table. I will be going to Lebanon from here and I will have the chance to discuss the situation of the three soldiers who have been abducted. And I have also had the chance to raise here with my previous visits and now with the authorities the situation of the Lebanese prisoners. This is something that we have been discussing for some time. But what is important is that the soldiers not be harmed. They should be kept in good health. And I do agree with the Prime Minister that the Red Cross should be given access to them immediately and without conditions. And I have sent the same message down.

So let's get to work, stop the violence, move back to the negotiating table. This region has suffered too much. There have been far too many killings and casualties and I think we should really now find a way of moving forward once and for all. We are at the crossroads. Let's make the right turn.

We'll take your questions.

[The Prime Minister was then asked a question in Hebrew, which he answered in Hebrew.]

SG: I didn't mention something. I am very grateful that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet yesterday decided not to stick to the deadline of 48 hours. I think it helps. I think we need relative calm to work out these things. I think we should avoid any statements, on both sides, that will lead to tension on either side. I think we are in a period of delicate and acute diplomacy. Diplomacy by coersion doesn't work. And both sides should not make statement that are likely to inflame.

And I am also happy to hear the Prime Minister indicate that

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