Copyrighted material


by Kester Kenn Klomegah

on Israeli operations in Lebanon

(IPS) MOSCOW -- Leaders of the G8 countries agreed to deliver a strong message Monday condemning bloodshed and military actions in the Middle East.

But they stopped short of collectively prevailing on Israel to end the bombing, and found they had little means to persuade the Hizbollah to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The G8 statement says that in order to create the right conditions for ending violence in the Middle East, Israeli soldiers captured in Gaza and Lebanon should be released, firing on Israeli territory should be stopped, Israeli troops should withdraw from the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, and arrested Palestinian ministers and members of parliament should be released.

The leaders expressed "deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure."

In the face of escalating attacks, the G8 statement amount to a mildly worded regret over the killing and upheaval.

"The root cause of the problems in the region is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace," they said. "The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilise the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace."

The final statement came after Russian leaders and French President Jacques Chirac had earlier condemned the Israeli bombing.

At the end of the meeting of the leaders of the G8 countries (the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan) in St. Petersburg in Russia, Chirac said that the leaders were calling for a cease-fire.

"It is evident that the G8 is calling for a cease-fire, we have all said it," Chirac told reporters. "The entire G8 has called for a cease-fire in Lebanon and Gaza."

Chirac had been pushing hard for a cease-fire call but U.S. President George W. Bush had ducked the question earlier in the day.

While the G8 leaders had agreed in their condemnation of the Hezbollah over the past few days, they had diverged in their opinions of how to respond to Israel's reaction. But as they arrived in St. Petersburg, there were indications of considerable acceptance of Israel's view that it had been provoked.

"We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East. Therefore, we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

But the G8 leadersd also called on Israel to exercise control. "We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilise the Lebanese government," the leaders said in their statement.

"We urge the UN Security Council to develop a plan for the full implementation of these resolutions. We extend to the Government of Lebanon our full support in asserting its sovereign authority over all its territory in fulfilment of United Nations Security Council resolution 1559," the statement said.

Russian leaders, like Chirac, had taken a stronger position against Israel earlier.

Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference on the sidelines of the G8 summit that an earlier 2004 UN Security Council resolution had envisioned Hezbollah's involvement in political activities in Lebanon, and that Russia had welcomed the decision.

"We must use all means available to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, and stop the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure. I discussed this with the Lebanese prime minister on the telephone recently," Lavrov said.

Last week foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in an interview that "the developments in the Middle East situation are indeed extremely alarming. The attack on Beirut international airport is a dangerous step on the road of military escalation. We decisively reaffirm our support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Lebanon."

He added: "One can neither understand nor justify Israel's continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territory, and the disproportionate use of force, from which civilians suffer. Equally unacceptable are the manifestations of terrorism."

Russia and most European countries had earlier condemned Hezbollah's hostage taking as a means of resolving problems, and accused Israel of excessive use of force in response to these actions.

The United States, Israel's traditional supporter, has urged Hezbollah to end their attacks, and demanded that Syria put pressure on Hezbollah to force it to stop violent actions in the Middle East.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that contacts made with the Palestinian Hamas movement and Lebanon's Hezbollah had helped to work on the Middle East resolution at the G8 summit.

Putin said Russia's advantage was that it had not closed its doors to any of the parties to the Middle East conflict.

"We have used all channels to free your soldiers," Putin told an Israeli journalist. "Due to some circumstances, I will refrain from revealing these secrets. I want to say....that we have every reason to believe that our efforts were not in vain."

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Albion Monitor   July 18, 2006   (

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