At an international conference held in Rome on Wednesday, world leaders were unable to reach an agreement on how to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Analysts discuss the meeting and international efforts to establish peace in the region.
Read the Full Transcript
Top world diplomats came to Rome with views on the Middle East crisis as far apart politically as they are on the globe, from the U.S. to Europe, to Russia, and several Arab nations in the Middle East, minus the two major combatants, who were not invited, Israel and Hezbollah.
Many arrived wanting an immediate cease-fire. After hours of meetings, they departed with this joint statement of "their determination to reach, with the utmost urgency, a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities."
More than 400 Lebanese and 40 Israelis have been killed over the past two weeks, but the statement added the cease-fire should be lasting, permanent and sustainable, reflecting the Bush administration position. Secretary of State Rice explained that stance again today.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. Secretary of State: We are all agreed that we want most urgently to end the violence on a basis that this time will be sustainable, because, unfortunately, this is a region that has had too many broken cease-fires, too many spasms of violence, followed then by other spasms of violence.
And we do have a way forward: We know that the international community made a pledge to the people of Lebanon when we passed Resolution 1559 that we would help Lebanon, the government of Lebanon, to establish its authority fully within its country as a sovereign state, without the interference of its neighbors, and as a state that could fully exercise its control throughout its territory, and that would have complete control over any means of violence.
In other words, that there would not be militias, but rather one authority and one gun.
There is much work to do, and everyone has a role to play. We all committed to dedicated and urgent action to try and bring about an end to this violence that, indeed, would be sustainable and that would leave the Lebanese government with the prospect of full control of its country.
This is very important: We cannot — and I've heard it many, many times during this conference — we cannot return to the status quo ante.
Rice arrived at the conference after meetings with the Lebanese and Israeli government leaders. The Italian foreign minister thanked the Israelis for opening corridors to transport humanitarian aid into Lebanon, but also urged the Olmert government to exercise restraint.
MASSIMO D’ALEMA, Foreign Minister, Italy:
The cease-fire must be lasting, permanent and sustainable. The Rome conference affirmed that the fundamental condition for lasting security in Lebanon is the government's full ability to exercise its authority over all its territory.
Participants, finally, agreed that any lasting solution to Middle East tensions must be regional. They expressed their full commitment to the people of Lebanon, Israel and throughout the region to act immediately with international community toward the goal of a comprehensive and sustainable peace.
The delegates also agreed on the immediate need for a U.N. force in Lebanon, but offered no details on the mission, who would pay for it, or provide the troops. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan picked up on the theme of urgency.
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. Secretary General:
It is important that we get early and quick contributions for the international force that may eventually be sent to the region to help stabilize southern Lebanon, to allow Lebanon, the government of Lebanon, time and space to prepare its own troops, and be able to extend its authority throughout the country, and to bring under governmental authority all the weapons and guns in the country.
Annan also appealed for an immediate cease-fire, one day after an Israeli rocket killed four unarmed U.N. observers in southern Lebanon.
There was a passionate address to reporters from the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, putting, in the words of Condoleezza Rice, "a human face" on the conflict.
FOUAD SINIORA, Prime Minister of Lebanon: For the past 15 days, we are being pounded every day, and scores of people are dying every day, and scores are really being injured. And the country is being cut to pieces so that, really, to bring the country to its knees, and that's what's happening.
Let me tell you: Throughout the past years, did any of the actions that Israel committed over the years bring additional security and safety to Israel? Not at all; it did not bring at all any safety or security.
What brings security and safety is the ability of Israel to really build good relations with its neighbors. And how this can be done is really going through the peace process.
The Lebanese prime minister said, as part of any negotiations, he'd press several conditions demanded by Hezbollah, including the Israeli withdrawal from a disputed border area. In Lebanon, Hezbollah leaders dismissed the Rome conference.
HUSSEIN HAJ HASSAN, Hezbollah Member of Lebanese Parliament (through translator): I wasn't expecting much from the Rome conference because the United States and its secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, have refused a cease-fire because they have their own agenda in the Middle East. And because of this, they have given extra time to Israel to achieve something on the ground.