Announcing plans for a meeting on Monday of potential troop contributors to a United Nations stabilization force in southern Lebanon, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today it was time for “concrete, practical steps” to end the hostilities in the region and protect civilians from further attack.
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said Monday’s meeting would be preliminary because there is no Security Council mandate yet for such a force and Member States will not commit troops until they know the scope of that mandate.
But the Secretary-General said it was time for the international community “to really be action-oriented” to solve the crisis in the Middle East, where hundreds of Lebanese and Israeli civilians have been killed in the past fortnight, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been displaced from their homes.
“We’ve gone beyond statements and exhortations,” he said. “We’re looking for concrete, practical steps to take action.”
Mr. Annan, who attended a Security Council briefing yesterday by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland on the situation in Lebanon, northern Israel and the Gaza Strip, said Council members shared his concern that urgent steps are required.
He said that any measures devised by the international community must, above all, emphasize Lebanese sovereignty so that the country’s people can “take charge of their territory and their destiny.”
The Lebanese “need to find a way of disarming Hezbollah and creating a situation where there will be one authority and one gun, and extend the authority through the territory. And this is where the international community needs to work with them and give them the support, the space, by deploying the stabilization force.”
But he added that other countries in the region, such as Syria, should be brought into discussions about tackling the crisis.
“If we’re going to be able to resolve this issue, not only do we need to work with the Government of Lebanon, but we should encourage those who have influence to bring that influence to bear… That should not diminish from the authority of the Lebanese Government.”
In regard to the Israeli attack that killed four UN military observers on Tuesday, Mr. Annan said that whether or not the Israelis agree to a joint investigation into the incident, the UN would conduct its own probe. “In any event, it is important that a thorough investigation be conducted and the reports be made public,” he said.