Livni calls for soldiers' release

Officials deny reports of German mediation for swap deal with Hizbullah.

livni merkel 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
livni merkel 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called upon Germany on Monday to put pressure on "all parties involved" to bring about the release of captured IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Livni met on Monday in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and reiterated Israel's position that as far as Jerusalem was concerned, the immediate and unconditional release of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser was part of the commitment the international community took upon itself under UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Livni said Israel expected the international community would act upon this commitment. Officials in Livni's entourage said she did not ask Germany to mediate in bringing about their release. The officials also denied reports that Livni met with German Intelligence Chief Ernest Uhrlau, who has been involved in Arab-Israeli prisoner exchanges in the past. Steinmeier publicly denied reports that appeared in the Egyptian press that Germany had brokered a deal that would bring about Goldwasser's and Regev's release within three weeks. Livni also stressed the importance during her talks of implementing the arms embargo on Hizbullah called for under Resolution (UNSC) 1701. Livni said that if the embargo was not enforced and Hizbullah was rearmed, there would be a real danger of "further deterioration" in Lebanon. According to sources close to Livni, the bulk of her conversation with her German counterpart had to do with the Iranian nuclear issue. She warned against "the temptation" of "engaging in futile dialogue with Iran as long as it was not fully stopping its uranium enrichment." The only purpose of this maneuver, she said, was for Iran to "gain more time." If Iran was interested in real dialogue, it needed to bring about the complete cessation of all enrichment activities, she told Steinmeier. Livni is scheduled to fly to Copenhagen Tuesday for talks with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller. While in Berlin, Livni visited a Holocaust memorial at a former railway station in Berlin, met with pro-Israeli parliamentarians in the German parliament and met with journalists. She also met in the morning with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik. In a related development, Turkey's cabinet decided Monday to take part in the UNIFIL force in Lebanon, and government spokesman Cemil Cicek told reporters that the Turkish parliament would meet as early as next week to discuss the deployment. European countries who have decided to take part in the force, among them Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Belgium and Finland, have made clear that they would like to see a Muslim country involved so it does not seem like this force represents the West in a battle with Islam. Israel has said it would not object if Turkey wanted to take part, although it did voice objections to other Muslim countries - Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh - who expressed interest in sending a force but don't have diplomatic relations with Israel. Although Israel formally has not objected to Turkish participation, there is some concern in Jerusalem that the participation of Turkish soldiers could complicate sensitive Israeli-Turkish relations, especially if Turkish soldiers were inadvertently killed during the mission. In Lebanon, meanwhile, the government gave final approval Monday to Italy's participation in the UN force. Italy will reportedly send 2,500 troops. Providing more soldiers than any other country, Italy is expected to command the UNIFIL force starting in February 2007. Until then, France will lead the force.