Beirut reiterates rejection of bilateral talks over Shebaa


    Daily Star. Thursday, June 19, 2008


    Photo: Lebanese children flee Israel’s bombing of south Lebanon in 2006.

The Lebanese government on Wednesday rejected Israel’s call for direct peace negotiations.

“Lebanon’s position is clear to all and there is no place for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel,” Premier Fouad Siniora’s media office said in a statement late Wednesday. The statement stressed that Lebanese territories occupied by the Jewish state are subject to “UN resolutions that do not require any negotiations.”

The statement released by Siniora’s press office also said that “Lebanon did not receive any message from any side through US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

“However,” it added, “the Lebanese government has spared no effort nor missed any opportunity for over three years to ask friendly states and the UN to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the Shebaa Farms.”

“There is no room for bilateral negotiations between Lebanon and Israel, and Lebanon’s declared stand, reiterated last week, is commitment to the Arab peace initiative that calls for a comprehensive and just peace,” the statement stressed.

“Israel is obliged to withdraw from Lebanese territories … in line with UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 1701,” the statement added.

Israel on Wednesday called for direct peace talks with Lebanon, saying it was ready to discuss all contentious issues.

“We favor direct, bilateral negotiations in which all issues of dispute are up for discussion,” Premier Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, told AFP.

The Lebanese government rejected the suggestion last week after Olmert had hinted that Israel would be interested in direct talks with Beirut.

On Monday, Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut where she called for United Nations action on the occupied Shebaa Farms, an area Israel captured from Syria in 1967, and which Lebanon claims as its own.

A UN resolution that ended Israel’s devastating 34-day war against Lebanon in 2006 called for the UN secretary general to propose a border demarcation for the Shebaa Farms.

In 1982, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, reaming until pulling out from most of the South in May 2000.

“Israel wants peace with Lebanon,” Regev said in a statement that came amid a flurry of negotiations in the Middle East.

A truce in and around the Gaza Strip is due to come into effect on Thursday after months of Egyptian mediation between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the territory.

Israel also resumed peace talks with Syria – indirect negotiations being mediated by Turkey – last month after an eight-year freeze.

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