EU to Syria: stop meddling in Lebanon

European leaders also call for halt in settlement, security fence activity.

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December 15, 2006 01:28
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EU leaders on Friday urged Syria to stop inferring in Lebanese affairs and to work instead to stabilize that country. French President Jacques Chirac told reporters Friday that the 25 EU nations stand united in their support of "the democratic institutions in Lebanon and, as a result, in support of the democratically elected government" of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. "Our security and our prosperity depend also on the stability in this troubled region," he said. "We cannot appear divided or inactive as a spiral of uncontrolled violence looms." Chirac added that France would host an international donor conference for Lebanese reconstruction on January 25. "More than ever, Lebanon needs our help," he said, speaking at the end of a two-day summit meeting in Brussels. As part of the EU's interest in resolving Israel's border disputes, it called for the Sheeba Farms area on the Lebanese border, which has been part of Israel since 1967, to be mandated to the United Nations. The EU leaders also demanded that Israel to stop its surveillance flights over Lebanon and insisted that Hizbullah should release the two soldiers it kidnapped this summer. In a set of broad ranging statements on Middle East issues, the EU threw its support behind moderate Arab leaders, calls for a cessation to violence, and urged all sides to halt activities that prevented progress in the peace process. Turning to Israel, the EU called for an end to construction in the West Bank and urged Israel to stop working on the security fence in Palestinian territory. "The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those agreed by both parties," said the heads of state in their concluding text. Israel was also requested to release Palestinian ministers and legislators detained in Israel and encouraged to return the Palestinian tax revenues it has withheld since Hamas took control of the PA government following last January's elections. Speaking with reporters after a meeting, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to meet with his Palestinian counterpart, Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as soon as possible. Solana and the rest of the EU leaders also urged the Palestinians in Gaza and Israel to maintain the fragile cease-fire that has been in place for the last several weeks. "Violations of the cease-fire must end, and [the cease-fire] should be extended to the West Bank," the leaders said in their declaration. As for the Palestinians, Hamas was told to release the captured IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whom its operatives abducted on the Gaza border on June 25. The EU leaders also called on Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce terror, and abide by past diplomatic agreements. The leaders commended Abbas for working to form a new government that would implement these three principles. If he succeeds in his effort, the EU leaders pledged to provide a PA unity government with financial and infrastructure assistance. EU heads of states on Friday also announced their intention to stick with the Road Map and the Sharm-el Sheikh understanding that talks of the release of prisoners and security cooperation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. While much attention had been paid prior to the summit to a five-point peace plan proposed by Italy, Spain and France, there was no mention of such an initiative or any new European peace plan in the document released by the heads of state. Addressing the Iran crisis, the EU warned that it would continue to pursue sanctions if Iran did not halt its uranium enrichment program. "The European Council expresses deep concern at the Iranian government's recent statements concerning the EU and individual member states, as well as its threats toward Israel," said the EU leaders. Late Thursday night, Solana declared at the summit that the EU wanted a Middle East that was free of nuclear weapons. Solana spoke in response to a query by reporters regarding a comment Olmert made earlier in the week, in which he appeared to suggest that Israel could possess nuclear arms. "The European Union does not want to have weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East," Solana said. "It's that clear." AP contributed to this report.


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