Siniora calls on Germany to help revive peace process

Posted in Broader Middle East | 29-Sep-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora urged Germany to do more on Thursday to secure peace in the Middle East, while calling on Israel to speed up its withdrawal from Lebanon and put an end to its "repeated violations" of his country's sovereignty. Siniora focused on Germany's role in maintaining peace in Lebanon during his visit to Germany, where he met with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the deployment of German peacekeepers in Lebanon.

"It is so important that Europe can play an effective role in these matters," Siniora told the media after meeting with Merkel. "I am confident that our meeting today was a very important step in [creating] real strong foundations for the relationship between Germany and Lebanon."

Siniora and Merkel discussed a wide range of issues, from Germany's naval deployment to support the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to ways to pursue broader peace talks in the region.

"I want to express deep appreciation to the German Parliament ... and also to the German people who are behind the decision," Siniora said.

The premier also took the opportunity to repeat his criticisms of the Israeli Army's delayed withdrawal, demanding Israel stop its repeated air, land and sea violations of Lebanon.

"Resolution 1701 has to be respected by all parties," Siniora said, referring to the UN resolution that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon.

"I think Israel has to really expedite the process of withdrawal from all the newly occupied territories and it has to stop its incursions and violations of our airspace, waters and lands," he added.

For her part, Merkel urged all sides to respect the resolution while taking care not to directly criticize Israel. Support for Israel has been a fundamental policy of all German governments since the fall of the Nazi regime after World War II.

"The navy will help on one hand to prevent the smuggling of weapons [to Hizbullah] and on the other will help the Lebanese Army to protect its coast and border," Merkel told reporters.

She said Germany wanted to help Lebanon's reconstruction process and the building of a "sovereign, strong and democratic country."

The chancellor also emphasized the need for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, saying, "Germany wants to do its part."

Germany has joined calls for the so-called "Quartet" of Middle East negotiators - the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia - to seek talks on a broader regional peace.

Germany sent eight warships earlier this month to help patrol the Lebanese coast in the nation's largest naval operation since World War II.

German lawmakers approved the deployment of 2,400 naval troops to Lebanon last Wednesday, a mission Merkel described as "historic" because it takes the country's forces into the heart of the Middle East. - Agencies