Germany urges Hezbollah to work for ceasefire

1st August 2006, Comments 0 comments

1 August 2006, BRUSSELS - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the radical Lebanese Hezbollah movement to indicate its willingness to defuse the current crisis with Israel as European Union ministers gathered to discuss the crisis in Brussels Tuesday. Steinmeier said that Israel's reduction of hostilities for a 48- hour period was "a first step." "I believe there is an opportunity, if Hezbollah honours this step, that we will be further along the path to a ceasefire and to a cessation

1 August 2006

BRUSSELS - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the radical Lebanese Hezbollah movement to indicate its willingness to defuse the current crisis with Israel as European Union ministers gathered to discuss the crisis in Brussels Tuesday.

Steinmeier said that Israel's reduction of hostilities for a 48- hour period was "a first step."

"I believe there is an opportunity, if Hezbollah honours this step, that we will be further along the path to a ceasefire and to a cessation of hostilities," he said.

The German minister suggested a "revival" and expansion of the so- called Mideast Quartet, which brings together the United States, United Nations, EU and Russia to discuss peace in the Middle East.

It would be "beneficial" if the quartet also took on the Lebanon conflict and was joined by "two important Arab members," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier called for the efforts of the quartet to be "given extra weight by a single face, by one representative."

Tuesday's talks were expected to focus on plans to deploy an international force in southern Lebanon and review Europe's humanitarian aid to victims of the escalating conflict.

Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security policy chief, has said several European governments would participate in the operation which could also include Turkey and Arab nations.

France, Ireland, Spain and Sweden are likely to participate. But Britain has said its forces are overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq and Germany remains uneasy about participation in the operation.

Ministers were also expected to renew calls for an immediate end to fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia.

The half-day emergency meeting - convened by Finland as the current president of the 25-nation bloc - was also expected to spotlight a growing transatlantic rift over just how quickly Israel should cease its attacks on southern Lebanon.

Alarmed at the mounting civilian death toll and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Lebanon, most EU governments are demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities.

In another key difference with the US, which is fully backing Israeli action, leading EU officials have also criticized Israel for using "disproportionate" force against southern Lebanon in response to attacks by Hezbollah.

The European Commission has earmarked up to 50 million euros (almost 63 million dollars) in emergency aid to victims of the conflict in Lebanon, with 20 million euros already sent to the country.

EU officials have said more aid could be made available but warn that the bloc's coffers are already running low because of assistance being extended to ease other humanitarian crises, including in Africa.

DPA

Subject: German news, Lebanon, Israel, Hezbollah

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