France, Germany hail EU 'backbone' in Mideast

4th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Sept 4, 2006 (AFP) - The foreign ministers of France and Germany launched an impassioned defence of European security policy Monday, citing the role Europe will play in the beefed-up buffer force in southern Lebanon.

BERLIN, Sept 4, 2006 (AFP) -  The foreign ministers of France and Germany launched an impassioned defence of European security policy Monday, citing the role Europe will play in the beefed-up buffer force in southern Lebanon.

Despite initial bickering between EU partners on the formation of the force, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the mission would be a milestone for Europe.

"A major political moment during the Finnish (EU) presidency occurred two Fridays ago in Brussels," Douste-Blazy told a conference in Berlin of German ambassadors.

"We began with a few hundred European soldiers and ended up with 7,300 European soldiers. The backbone of the UNIFIL force is European. This is the beginning of Europe as an entity, it is a Europe that has a face and a will to play a role."

He and Steinmeier rejected the accusation that the EU's reaction to the conflict between Israel and Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah was belated and poorly coordinated.

Steinmeier said Europe's role in peacekeeping forces in the Balkans, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and now Lebanon demonstrated "a new character" of the EU's international role.

He added the bolstered force in Lebanon had "a clear European signature".

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said the fact Europe was increasingly "in demand" in the world's hot spots was also based on the fact that Germany, long reserved on the international stage due to its militaristic past, was now willing to assume more responsibility.

European nations pledged up to 7,000 troops on August 25 to form the core of an enlarged UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to enforce the fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah.

France in particular came in for criticism last month for initially saying it would lead the expanded force only to make a smaller commitment of troops than originally expected.

Italy will now be the force's biggest contributor with up to 3,000 soldiers and take over its command next February from France.

The force is crucial to shoring up UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which on August 14 brought an end to the devastating 34-day conflict.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article