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Annan Discusses Middle East Crisis

Annan Discusses Middle East Crisis With Council’s Permanent Members In Informal Talks

New York, Aug 1 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan met today with the five permanent members of the Security Council in informal talks focused on the crisis in the Middle East and how best to stop the bloodshed in a conflict that has killed hundreds of people and forced almost a million others to flee their homes across the region.

Mr. Annan discussed with the ambassadors from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States the cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire and political framework for a settlement, as well as the composition and deployment of a stabilization force for Lebanon and the humanitarian situation, a UN spokesman told reporters.

“The Secretary-General was satisfied with the outcome of this breakfast meeting and his discussions with the P-5 (Permanent Five) which permitted a clarification of the critical issues on the table and a discussion of the timelines,” said Ahmad Fawzi.

Mr. Fawzi said the participants had discussed various concepts relating to a new force for Lebanon, recalling that the Secretary-General had strongly urged them to agree on a common position. “He pleaded with the Council on Sundayset their differences aside to stop the killing.”

Also on the subject of a possible international force, Mr. Fawzi said that a meeting will take place on Thursday to discuss which countries could potentially contribute troops for such a mission. The meeting, originally intended for yesterday, is being organized by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and will be chaired by UN Under-Secretary-General Jean Marie Guéhenno.

Thursday’s meeting is intended to pave the way for a force while governments could decide what option they preferred, Mr. Fawzi said, distinguishing between UN peacekeepers, as opposed to a “coalition of the willing” under the leadership of a specific State with a mandate from the Security Council.

Mr. Annan “is urging Member States to resolve their own differences and that’s why he’s called for this technical meeting so we can…lay down the groundwork for a force and give time to the politicians to decide what the mandate will be,” the spokesman said.

Responding to press questions, Mr. Fawzi reiterated the Secretary-General’s urgent appeal for a cessation of hostilities. “There can only be a political solution to this crisis,” he stressed. The parties, he added, must “stop killing each other and get to the negotiating table.”

Given the fact that military action will not resolve the conflict, the spokesman said, “We have appealed to the parties to stop pulling the trigger and to start talking about a longer-term, more comprehensive solution.”

Yesterday, the 15-member Council extended for one month the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFILile proposals for a new international presence are considered. Mr. Annan said in his most recent report that the upsurgeviolence had “radically changed the context” in which UNIFIL operates and recommended that its mandate be renewed only for another month while all possible options for southern Lebanon are worked out.

On the ground in Lebanon, UNIFIL again reported continued exchangesfire between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah in the past 24 hours across the so-called Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel.

Among other incidents, UNIFIL reported “heavy ground fighting” in the general area of Ayta Ash Shab in the western sector this afternoon and also that an Israeli artillery round had hit a UN position in another area earlier in the day, although there were no casualties.

Last week, four unarmed military observers from UNIFIL were killed when their base at Khiyam in southern Lebanon was hit by Israeli fire.

ENDS


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