SecGen’s press encounter at SecCo stakeout – Press release


24 July 2006

(unofficial transcript)
SG:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I will be leaving this afternoon for the meeting in Rome on Lebanon.  In Rome, we’ll be searching for a solution.  I hope a package would emerge that will facilitate transactions between all sides and allow us to take concrete measures to do something about the conflict.  Obviously, there will be the discussion of cessation of hostilities and ceasefire, and there will be discussion about the force – the international force that will be deployed to the south.  And there are many ideas being put forward – I have my own ideas, the Americans have ideas, the Egyptians have put forward proposals.  And I am sure, by the time we get to Rome, others will come forward with ideas.  What is important is, that we leave Rome with a concrete strategy as to deal as to how we are going to deal with this, and we do not walk away empty-handed and, once again, dash the hopes of those who are caught in this conflict.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General.  You’ve mentioned several aspects of what you would expect to see coming out of Rome, including a cessation of hostilities, and a possible ceasefire and something about a force.  What are the other key elements that you think need to be, or must be, in this package in order to ensure a lasting peace?

SG:  I think I gave you quite a lot of those indications in my statement before the [Security] Council last Wednesday, which includes the release of the abducted prisoners, it includes the end of shelling by Hezbollah, an end of Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, and there are other aspects which I am sure we will need to discuss when we are all at the table.  But I see this, we have to really agree a package and move forward with simultaneous and parallel implementation of the package.

Q:  Does it include the disarming of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces down to the border?

SG:   I think the whole idea – we have to be quite clear here – is to support the Government of Lebanon.  We need to give the Government of Lebanon the support it requires to be able to strengthen its own armed forces, to be able to deploy its troops to the south and throughout the country, to take full charge of its territory and to ensure that [Security Council Resolution] 1559 is fully implemented, which includes disarmament of all militia.

Q:   In your proposals, you mentioned Sheba’a.  Now, what are you having as [an] alternative to just waiting for the Syrians to agree for a delineation of borders, because the Syrians are saying, even if we do, we’re going to creep from the north all the way to the south, which would take ten years, at least.  So, given the circumstances, and the situation, and since you put Sheba’a on the table, are you considering, for example, undoing UNDOF [the UN Disengagement Observer Force] and try to take Sheba’a out and call it Lebanese, as both the Lebanese and the Syrians say it is.  And secondly, since we are on Syria?  There are reports that you are sending envoys to both Iran and Syria.  Would this be the same team, or would it be without Terje Roed-Larsen?  And what exactly is the message to both countries, should you send a team or an envoy there?

SG:  Let me say that, on the second point, I read it in the press, as you read it.  I was surprised that somebody thought I was sending a team to Syria.  They even mentioned who was going to lead it.  So, it was news to me too.  [laughs] But, anyway, this is an issue that we need to discuss – the whole question of Sheba’a.  It is a serious issue.  It’s of great importance to the Lebanese Government, and they see it as part of the settlement.  And we will need to discuss with all concerned.  It is a delicate issue, and I  do not want to go into details before you here as to how we’re going to proceed and what I’m going to do about it.  We’ve had lengthy discussions on Sheba’a for a long time and it is now part of the issues which will have to be discussed.

Q;  Do you have strong feelings as to whether this stabilisation force should be a United Nations force or not, or are you open to the idea of a force that might be a NATO force, or some other kind of multilateral force which would not be a blue helmeted UN force.

SG:  When I put forward the idea, I was seeing a UN force, building on what exists and expanding and transfiguring it.  There are others who believe that it should be a UN mandated force, but not a UN operation.  And this is an issue that I am sure is going to be very much on the table.  There are political and other implications here which will have to be discussed.  There are advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage of going with a non-UN force is sometimes the governments can deploy much faster. If speed is of the essence and they can deploy faster, yes.  But, of course, some of the governments also feel more comfortable being part of a UN force, working under blue helmets.  But these are issues that we need to thrash out.  What is important is that we are going to need an effective force on the ground, an effective force that will be able to help the Lebanese Government, give them time and space to train their own army, help them expand their authority throughout the country, and implement [resolution] 1559 fully.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General, over the weekend, Israel has refused the offer by Lebanon to ask for United Nations mediation for exchange of prisoners, they said.  In face of such intransigence from Israel and insisting on the release of their two soldiers before anything else, how do you intend, what mechanism do you have, or ideas, to achieve this?  And is the United Nations taking into consideration the whole picture – the prisoners – the Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian prisoners in Israel, for whom Hezbollah claimed that they have kidnapped the two soldiers?

SG:  These are issues that will have to be discussed when we all meet in Rome.  Obviously, there are demands from both sides, and one would have to look at the demands of both sides, discuss it, negotiate with the other partners, and determine what package would be put forward and what package would emerge.  And that’s why I insisted it is important that we agree a set of measures as a package and move forward to implement them in parallel, because I have a problem with the sequential approach.

Q:  I wanted to get your ideas as to what are options open, sources of leverage, for actually disarming/disbanding Hezbollah.  Talks, national dialogue didn’t achieve that.  It doesn’t look so far like the military campaign by Israel is achieving that and Hezbollah certainly has shown no willingness or desire to be disbanded and disarmed.  Could you explain to me what are the sources of leverage here?  Presumably, we are not talking about a UN force going and actively disarming them.  So what are we talking about?

SG:  A force alone will not do it.  You can not disarm Hezbollah by force alone.  There has to be a political agreement and a political understanding.  There has to be an understanding amongst the Lebanese, and we need to help them come to that understanding.  We need to encourage leaders in the region with leverage to also help, and this is why last Friday I indicated that I would expect Iran and Syria to be part of the solution.  And we need to engage them – I’m in touch with both of them.  And I think it is important that we get the Lebanese to come together and see what is in their own interest and agree to work together.  In fact, as part of the implementation of 1559, we had been in discussion with the Lebanese Government, which was conscious that militia, including Hezbollah, have to be disarmed.  And there was national dialogue going on about the disarmament.  Of course, it didn’t come to fruition before this.  We need to have a really meaningful dialogue about disarmament.  There was a question of absorbing Hezbollah into the army as a national guard.  They had all sorts of ideas, and we need to create the environment for these discussions to continue and bear fruit.  There has to be a political settlement, a political agreement.  A military solution alone will not solve the problem.

Q:  Quelles sont les possibilités pour négotier un cessez-le-feu rapidement?

SG: Je crois que je viens de répondre à la question.  Disons que pour négotier un cessez-le-feu, ça va prendre du temps.  Ce qu’ils nous faut c’est  la cessation de l’hostilité, et, si vous voulez, une entrée humanitaire pour nous permettre d’aider la population.  Ensuite, continuer à discuter la question d’un cessez-le feu et de travailler sur le ‘longterm’ ……

And I think this is where we sometimes we lose each other, because there is a short-term need and a longer-term requirement.  And I think we have to be careful not to confuse the short term and the long term.  And the short term is doing whatever we can to stop the violence and the killing on both sides, help the humanitarian situation, get help to the needy, and work on the long-term situation which everybody agrees has to be different from what we have today, and nobody wants to go back to the previous situation, including the Lebanese.  So there is a real possibility that, if we handle this well, we can find a long- term solution, but, at the same time, take some urgent measures to help the humanitarian situation, which you all heard Jan Egeland, how shocked he was when he got to Beirut.

Q:  Mr. Secretary-General.  You said you have had some contacts with Iran and Syria.  Can you expand on that a little bit?  And do you intend, perhaps, to get directly involved in meeting with those heads of state, or will your team – I wasn’t clear if your team is going back?

SG:  I think what is important is that I did speak to them about the situation in the region and fact that we are going to need their cooperation, and both have indicated that they will cooperate.  But I think what is important is that, after Rome, depending on the package that emerges, I think both countries will have to be engaged.

Thank you very much.


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