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John R. Bolton - Middle East Situation 2 Aug. 2006

Middle East Situation

Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Remarks to the media at a Security Council Stakeout
New York City
August 2, 2006


Ambassador Bolton: Well, good morning. The purpose of the meeting this morning was simply the August program of work of the council. I might just say on the subject of Lebanon, we have been having very extensive discussions with other members of the council both here and in capitals, working on the question of what the Security Council reaction will be, what the next steps are; and those discussions are, as I say, very active. I don't have anything specific to comment on at the moment; but contrary to some impressions, I think that while there are areas where there is disagreement among Council members on the specifics of how to proceed, I am very impressed by the good faith and earnestness with which everybody is working on this. And I think that's an important sign that this is not something that anybody is sluffing off or not dealing with in a very concerted and serious manner. So while I know it's tempting for ladies and gentlemen of the press to highlight differences, that being much more interesting than areas of agreement, I think it's important in this case, given the seriousness of the situation to underline the real good faith and intensity with which we're trying to resolve our differences. So with that, why don't I take a question?

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, well unfortunately I am going to raise differences. There seem to be serious philosophical differences between the American approach and the French approach. I wonder how you believe these could be bridged and whether you are still hopeful or optimistic that there can be an agreement in the coming days or next week or when?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I don't think there are philosophical differences. I mean these don't rise to the level of Cartesian magnitude. There are differences in approach to the nature of the cessation of hostilities and how to make it permanent, but there is near complete agreement on the fundamental political framework that has to be put in place. We've been making progress on that here in New York and in the exchanges between capitals. And I think that's really significant, because it underlines the fundamental notion that we do not want to see a return to the status quo ante. So I think that's very significant. Now, how that issue gets resolved, in part, tells us how the force composition and mandate issue get resolved, as well. And these are some of the questions that we're working on. And I think we're -- we find the results of the conversations to be encouraging so far, although more work remains to be done, there's no question about that.

Reporter: Ambassador there's some talk of two resolutions, one which would have a cease-fire and a second one which would deal with the, sort of, broader political deal. Is that something that the U.S. is moving towards agreeing to?

Ambassador Bolton: What we're talking about now is something that will certainly set out the framework of the larger political foundation for a sustainable cease-fire. As we've said repeatedly, I don't think that a cease-fire without more is sufficient to lead to a fundamental change in the situation in the region. But the precise way that this will be done, how many resolutions would be involved, remains to be seen, in part, because things are changing on the ground as well.

Reporter: Ambassador, what's this talk about a lead force going in before the major force goes in? And since there are -- forgive me to also bring out the differences -- there are differences of what comes first between you and the French, if so, such a lead force is to be considered, who is going to lead it?

Ambassador Bolton: I think one of the alternatives that's being considered is two different kinds of forces in two different kinds of periods, because the situation at the outset when a force might go in could well be substantially different than a period, say, six months later and over the longer term. And I think that really is just a statement of the obvious. But there's no decision on that and there's no real split. I think everybody's trying to weigh these factors back and forth, and that's a considerable part of the discussion we're having.

Reporter: Could a strengthened UNIFIL play a bridging role to help ensure that, during a cessation of fighting, that neither side is able to take advantage and exploit that lull?

Ambassador Bolton: I don't want to try and get too much into the specifics of what we're talking about. I don't really think it's useful at this point to display them in public -- to say, "Well, this is a possibility," or "That's not a possibility." We're having almost continuous discussion on this point, and different ideas come in and out of play. But the point I want to underline is the essential agreement we have on the basic need for the next council action and subsequent council actions to be part of a framework that leads to a substantial change in the region.

Reporter: Ambassador, if you were to get a resolution embedding the political framework in a resolution, would you at that stage be willing to support an immediate end to the violence?

Ambassador Bolton: As I said, I don't want to really characterize how this might come out, because I think that it's important that we and others who are engaged in this discussion keep flexibility. And it's important that players in the region are part of it as well. And that often is a circumstance that doesn't play out well with public discussion.

Reporter: In terms of disarming Hezbollah, is there talk now that a new UN force would help the Lebanese government disarm Hezbollah? Or is that not being discussed so directly?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think it is fundamental to 1559 -- to the full implementation of 1559, that Hezbollah has to give up being an armed force, a force that carries out terrorist action. If it wants to be a political party, it needs to be a real political party. And that's certainly an end state that I think we need to have full implementation of 1559, and we're looking at different ways to do that.

Reporter: If the French ambassador told us on Monday that he cannot see France playing a role in a force that would disarm Hezbollah, and that should be left to a dialogue internally, and you are stating, or the administration is stating that disarming Hezbollah comes first actually, can you see a middle solution between these two? They seem too polarizing.

Ambassador Bolton: Well, that is exactly the exercise we're now engaged in, to see if there is a way to bridge these conceptual differences. And it's been a discussion that we've had at, I think, very serious levels, very intensely, and in real good faith, because it is important, I think, for long-term stability in the region, for the safety and democracy of the people of Lebanon and the safety of the people in Israel that we reach this conclusion. I'll just take one more here.

Reporter: Is there any evidence that either Israel or Hezbollah would be ready to accept a call for an immediate end to violence? And is there any evidence that a combination of Lebanese armed forces and possibly a strengthened UNIFIL would be able to prevent further arms being brought to Hezbollah during a cease-fire?

Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think those are some of the questions that we're in the course of examining. And I think that it is -- for us it's a significant element that Syria and Iran and others who have been supplying Hezbollah with arms and finance take seriously their obligations under 1559 to stop that supply. And that's going to be an important point for us, however this works out. Now, as I said, that was the last question, so I'll see you later. Thank you very much.

Released on August 2, 2006

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