Peretz to Solana: We'll fly over Lebanon until soldiers are freed

October 26, 2006 23:16
2 minute read.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Thursday that the IAF's reconnaissance flights over Lebanon will continue until the two IDF reservists kidnapped by Hizbullah in July are freed. "The flights over Lebanon will continue until the soldiers have been returned and the supervision of the border is arranged," said Peretz. The two men spoke in Tel Aviv a day after reports that two IAF fighter jets allegedly targeted a German warship patrolling off the Lebanese coast as part of the UN-peacekeeping force. The Defense Ministry said the planes had not attacked the ship. Solana is making a six-day visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in an attempt to breathe new life into the peace process. Peretz also discussed the Iranian nuclear threat with Solana. With respect to the Palestinians, Peretz promised Solana that he would support steps to improve humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. Solana, who met with Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday, said that he had more in common with Peretz than with the Israel Beiteinu chairman. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni earlier in the day, Solana spoke of the need to reopen the crossing between Gaza and the outside world, which has been open for only 12 days in the past four months. European Union officials who monitor the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt have threatened to abandon their mission if Israel keeps closing the passage. "We hope to have in a few days or weeks - we hope days - a response on a renewal of our presence in Rafah," Solana said at a joint news conference with Livni in Tel Aviv. Israel handed the Rafah crossing over to EU-supervised Palestinian control last year under a US-brokered accord. Livni said that while there were operational issues that needed to be discussed, Israel was happy with the EU's involvement in Rafah. "We are going to negotiate with the Europeans on the future terms," she said. "But we are very positive about the role of Europe in monitoring the Rafah passage." Solana also met Thursday with Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who said, "Iran is not strong. The reaction to Iran is weak and that is what strengthens Iran," Peres said. Livni said the world must not wait until Iran has a nuclear weapon. "They need to understand that the critical point is not the day of an explosion but the day when Iran masters the technology, and that day is far closer than the day of the explosion," she said. "The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran... There is a need to take sanctions." AP contributed to this report.

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