Annan Demands Ceasefire

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(Annan, right, called for a prompt ceasefire)

Kofi Annan today called for an immediate ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel because of the great humanitarian crisis in Lebanon.

“Both the deliberate targeting by Hizbollah of Israeli population centres with hundreds of indiscriminate weapons and Israel’s disproportionate use of force and collective punishment of the Lebanese people must stop,� said Annan to the UN Security Council today. Over 300 Lebanese have been killed and at least 600 wounded – mostly civilians, and at least one-third are children.

“Much of the infrastructure in Beirut and around the country has been destroyed,� and he said, “Lebanon remains under an Israeli military blockade, imposed by sea and air.� So far 28 Israelis have been killed and over 200 wounded. “The Israeli people who had hoped that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon would bring security along their northern border, find themselves under constant Hezbollah rocket attacks, which every day reach further into Israeli territory,� he continued.

Over 500,000 people have been displaced so far because of the conflict. United Nations Agencies cannot respond with aid because of the military attacks and thus humanitarian conditions have greatly worsened. “Israeli operations have made it impossible for UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to reach almost any part of southern Lebanon, even to assess the needs, let alone to deliver the actual assistance needed.�

He insisted that the abducted Israeli soldiers “must be released as soon as possible, and in any event the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be granted immediate access to them.� And he insisted that the Israeli Government “must allow humanitarian agencies access to civilians. And the democratically elected Government of Lebanon must be urgently supported in its hour of crisis.� At the same time, he said that parallel and “urgent steps� must be undertaken for a political framework for a lasting settlement of the conflict, arguing that “most people in the region rightly reject a simple return to the status quo ante, since any truce based on such a limited outcome could not be expected to last.�

He was blunt when referring to the findings of the UN Crisis Team headed by his Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar. “Let me be frank with the Council. The mission’s assessment is that there are serious obstacles to reaching a ceasefire, or even to diminishing the violence quickly.â€? 

“A full ceasefire remains difficult to achieve at this time,� he said but the international community must be clear on “the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities, and a far greater and more credible effort by Israel to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure while the conditions for such a cessation are urgently developed.�
The UN Middle East Crisis Team has suggested elements including the transfer of the Israeli soldiers whose capture sparked the crisis to Lebanese authorities under the auspices of the ICRC, with a view to their repatriation, and an ensuing ceasefire. On the Lebanese side of the Blue Line an expanded peacekeeping force should work to stabilize the situation, work with the Lebanese Government by strengthening its army, be deployed throughout the area and establish sovereignty and control.

At the same time, Lebanon’s Prime Minister would unequivocally confirm to the Security Council that the Blue Line will be respected entirely.  The UN and the International Community would provide funding for urgent aid and reconstruction and development while key regional and international actors monitor and guarantee the implementation of all aspects of the agreement, he said.

Annan said that the trigger of this tragedy was Hizbollah’s “provocative attack� on 12 July. But the Lebanese Government clearly had no advance knowledge of this attack, which the UN condemned at the time. Israel has a clear right to self-defence, he said. He also condemned “Hizbollah’s reckless disregard for the wishes of the elected Government of Lebanon, and for the interests of the Lebanese people and the wider region.� He condemned the excessive use of force saying, “a number of its actions have hurt and killed Lebanese civilians and military personnel and caused great damage to infrastructure.� Annan cited Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, who said Israel’s actions had “torn the country to shreds.�

He also noted the observation of the Nambiar team that Israel’s operations, whatever their effect on Hizbollah’s military capabilities, “are doing little or nothing to decrease popular support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or the region, but are doing a great deal to weaken the Government of Lebanon.�

Annan also expressed concern about Gaza, where Palestinians “are suffering deeply, with well over 100, many of them civilians, killed in the last month alone.� And he called for “an immediate cessation of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a reopening of closed crossing-points, without which Gaza will continue to be sucked into a downward spiral of suffering and chaos, and the region further inflamed.�

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