PM willing to discuss Shaba Farms

Olmert tells Italian FM that he wants direct peace talks with Lebanon, and that area would be on table.

shaba farms 88 (photo credit: )
shaba farms 88
(photo credit: )
Israel is willing to negotiate with Lebanon directly about the Mount Dov/Shaba Farms issue, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Frattini offered Rome's services in facilitating negotiations between Jerusalem and Beirut. During his meeting with Frattini, Olmert - according to government sources - expressed a desire for direct talks with Lebanon on all the issues of contention. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora has said in the past that Lebanon would be the last country to negotiate with Israel. Regarding this, Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev said Tuesday, "Israel has peace with Egypt and Jordan, and is currently negotiating with the Palestinians and the Syrians. Lebanon is the last, so it is time to start." Earlier, prior to meeting President Shimon Peres, Frattini said, "In my view it would be extremely important to open negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. We have good contacts with Prime Minister Saniora, and I am in contact with him, and I will pass on the message." Frattini said there was now a "rare window of opportunity," and that there "is no reason why Israel should not begin peace talks with all its neighbors, including Lebanon." Italy, which has the largest contingent in UNIFIL, has been in command of the UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon since February 2007. Peres thanked Frattini for Italy's assistance in UNIFIL, and said Israel supported a free, independent and democratic Lebanon and would always respond positively to any peace initiative between it and its neighbors. "We have no conflict with Lebanon, and I don't see why Israel and Lebanon cannot make peace," the president said. Frattini also met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and flew with her to Kibbutz Misgav Am on the northern border. Livni told Frattini there was a need to stop the arms shipments from Syria to Hizbullah, and to disarm the Shi'ite group, both stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. "There is now an opportunity to disarm Hizbullah, and we should not lose it," she said. "If we don't do it now, it will be much more difficult later."