Jordan, Egypt: Chaos threatens region

FMs in Beirut: Conflict won't end until Israel makes peace with Arab world.

August 2, 2006 18:22
2 minute read.
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Brutal conflicts like the one raging between Israel and Hizbullah will not end until Israel makes peace with the whole Arab world, the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers said Wednesday. The two foreign ministers were the first Arab officials to visit Lebanon since Israeli attacks began after Hizbullah captured two IDF soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid 22 days ago. The Jordanian and Egyptian ministers, whose countries have peace treaties with Israel, said without a comprehensive peace agreement that includes the Palestinians, chaos threatens the entire region. "We believe that this situation in Lebanon could be repeated if a peace settlement that gives Arabs their full rights and gives the Palestinian people the right to set up their independent state is not reached," said Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Illah al-Khatib. The ministers, who arrived on military planes carrying humanitarian aid, met with top Lebanese officials to discuss ways to stop the violence that has ravaged southern Lebanon, south Beirut and parts the Bekaa Valley near Syria. Later Wednesday, Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, a former European Union envoy to the Middle East, met with Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and said the solution to the crisis can only be political. "I think we should work together in order to achieve a permanent cease-fire. I think that is what we are trying to do and I hope, I am sure, that we will succeed," Moratinos said. Al-Khatib's Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said that any international force deployed along the border between Lebanon and Israel should be authorized by the UN Security Council and be acceptable to the Lebanese people and government. "It should not be a NATO. It should be a force that preserves peace and does not impose peace," Aboul Gheit said. Israel has said it wants an armed force with a mandate to confront militants and seeks NATO involvement. Lebanon, however, wants an expansion of the current UN peacekeeping force, deployed in south Lebanon since 1978, which Israel dismisses as ineffective. The United Nations was to meet Thursday to discuss establishing a UN sanctioned force in southern Lebanon to separate the IDF from Hizbullah. Both ministers also said an immediate cease-fire was a necessary precondition to ending the conflict, and Aboul Gheit said Arab countries can't ignore the possibility that the conflict could spread to Syria. "It is possible. But we hope that matters don't reach that point. We hope that in the coming few days or the coming few hours a cease-fire will be reached," he said.

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