International Conference on Lebanon
Secretary General Annan, Prime Minister Siniora, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to say how honored I am to welcome you in the Foreign Ministry of Italy, on the occasion of such an important meeting at a very delicate moment of the Middle East crisis.
Let me also first of all express my deepest regret for all the civilian losses and in particular for the death of the four UN observers deployed in Southern Lebanon last night. I wish to express to the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, my most sincere condolences.
The international community can and must be united in its resolve to find a solution to the conflict in Lebanon.
We are all deeply concerned about the human suffering that the conflict is causing. Its tragic burden is born by ordinary people in Lebanon and Israel.
We all share the urgent need to put an end to the violence.
To this end, I suggest that we could focus our discussion on four issues:
• First, the ways and means for an effective humanitarian action;
• Second, the conditions for a stable and lasting cease-fire, building upon the conclusions of the G-8 summit;
• Third, the deployment of an international force under UN mandate to assist the Lebanese government and its Army in fully implementing Resolution 1559;
• Fourth, the International Community’s financial commitment to the reconstruction of Lebanon.
We need today to make some headway on each of those four points. Clearly, this is a sequence, including most urgent actions and long-term commitments. No progress will be sustainable, in fact, without a comprehensive and broadly shared agreement.
I believe we should start from the assumption that there are some general principles we all share.
First, the right of Israel to protect its security and to defend its territory from external attacks. While we recognize this legitimate right, we call Israel to exercise utmost restraint, in order to avoid punishing the Lebanese people for terrorist attacks by Hizbollah.
Second, Lebanon’s right to preserve and consolidate its sovereignty and territorial integrity;
Third , the fact that without the eradication of terrorism there will never be a lasting peace in the region;
Fourth, the moral duty we have to do our utmost to help people and promote reconstruction efforts in Lebanon.
How can we translate these principles into reality?
First we must promptly tackle the humanitarian crisis, with concrete actions.
Timing is crucial: humanitarian aid must be delivered immediately, without delay and in the most effective way. We welcome the announcement by Israeli’s authorities about their readiness to ensure ‘safe corridors’ for humanitarian operations.
In order to ensure effective coordination, we must agree on a ‘division of labour’ to address the humanitarian emergency in Lebanon and in Israelis’ targeted areas.
This can be done, in my view, only with a ‘team work’, involving the United Nations, the EU Commission, other International Organizations and bilateral donors.
Humanitarian operations must be compounded by our efforts for the reconstruction of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure which has been badly damaged. What we need is a precise estimate of the amount and kind of resources needed, with a plan of ‘who does what’ so that our efforts can complement each other.
We should set a tentative date to convene a Donors’ Conference for the reconstruction of Lebanon. At the same time we should also help Israel to repair the damages caused by Hizbollah attacks in the Northern part of the country.
The Un and the EU should play a major role in this regard, together with the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions.
Any humanitarian or financial effort will prove elusive if we do not make serious progress towards a sustainable cease-fire.
We can build on what has been agreed upon by the Heads of State and Government at the G8 Saint Petersburg Summit, aiming at a broader consensus on the political conditions for a lasting cease-fire.
I am aware that on this point different views do exist among us. But we all share the same sense of urgency and responsibility. I hope that our meeting will help to narrow these differences.
We need to reconcile the political principle of ‘conditional ‘ cease-fire with our moral duty to save and respect human lives.
In my view, this could be possible if we agreed on a phased approach, starting with a temporary suspension of hostilities for humanitarian purposes (an humanitarian pause) and leading to a sustainable cease-fire. I leave this proposal to the discussion.
Let me turn to the issue of the International Force needed to ensure stability, in order to fully implement Resolution 1559.
The terms for the deployment of such force would have to be set by the UN Security Council itself. Here, we should help in making such a commitment more widely shared and much more concrete.
I believe we could find a consensus on the notion of an International Force which is credible and effective to bring security, acting along with the Lebanese Army.
Italy has already declared to be ready to contribute to such an International Force.
Ultimately, however, any lasting solution cannot be but regional. Stabilizing Lebanon will not suffice if we are not able to get progress also on the Israeli-Palestinian track. The humanitarian situation is equally dramatic and we urgently need pacification.
In the longer-term, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza and the region as a whole have a lot to gain from a lasting peace, based on the principle of mutual recognition.
We need to fill the political void in the region which increasingly creates a breeding ground for extremism and violence. This can be done only through our joint efforts and a common responsibility of those countries who are sincerely committed to a peaceful future of the region.
I would strongly suggest that we remain attentive to the implementation of the results of this meeting. We must monitor closely their follow-up, using our diplomatic channels and sharing our assessments on progress made in future occasions.
Thank you very much.
Now I give the floor to Secretary General Kofi Annan