Steinmeier (left) met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad SanioraImage: AP
Steinmeier Sees Chance for Revised UN Resolution
DW staff (dc)
August 8, 2006
During a visit to the Middle East, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday he has increasing confidence that a resolution to stop fighting between Israel and Hezbollah can be passed by Friday.
Steinmeier was upbeat during a meeting with reporters after talks in Beirut with his Lebanese counterpart, Fawzi Salloukh.
"After the movement in the last hours I have become more confident that there can be an agreement in the course of this week and I hope that this will form the basis for a ceasefire," he said on Tuesday. "I see a chance that we will come to a ceasefire... and it is urgent."
Upon leaving Berlin on Monday, Steinmeier added that "the members of the UN Security Council now appear to have agreed" on the text.
He added that such a resolution would present a real chance to bring about a ceasefire in the region, where hundreds have been killed in the conflict over the past month.
Lebanon has asked for major changes to the draft because it fails to call explicitly for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
But Steinmeier said since Germany was not a member of the Security Council, it was not in a position to make suggestions to the council in order to change the text.
"The final text must be agreed by the UN Security Council members and I think that it would not be right if a country that is not a member of the Security Council makes instructions in this respect."
Steinmeier's trip is scheduled to continue with a visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.
Lebanon unhappy with UN resolution
Peretz said on Monday that Israel was entering "one of the most decisive stages of this war" and was determined to put an end to the Hezbollah rockets being shot into Israel by either military or political means, adding that "the two paths are going on in parallel."
The Lebanese government on Monday decided to send 15,000 of its troops to the south as Israeli forces pull out of the territory. Beirut hoped the move would pave the way for changes to a draft UN Security Council resolution to end the fighting.
Lebanon has said it was unhappy with the US-French draft resolution, demanding that it include a call for the immediate withdrawal of Israel's 10,000 troops from southern Lebanon.
Though Israel has not formally commented on the draft, a senior government official said the Jewish state viewed it favourably, partly because it allowed soldiers to remain in south Lebanon until an international force arrived to take over.
Though Steinmeier's trip will not bring him to Damascus, German foreign ministry spokesman Jens Plötner said the foreign minister was hoping to persuade Syria, which Israel accuses of arming Hezbollah, to contribute to peace efforts in the region.
"We should try to convince Syria to show a more positive attitude," Plötner said. "We do not know whether this is possible but it is worth trying."
Syria denies arming Hezbollah, saying it merely offers moral support to the radical Shiite movement which Israel is trying to rout from Lebanon in a massive offensive launched on July 12.
Steinmeier's last visit to the region took place in late July, when a two-day trip took him to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
On Monday, Merkel had a telephone conversation with Siniora in which both leaders agreed that the priority now was to get a proposed United Nations' resolution on the Middle East passed by the Security Council as quickly as possible, government spokesman Thomas Steg said.
However, disagreements about the wording of the resolution remain.
On the weekend, France and the United States agreed on a proposed text for the resolution calling for a "full cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hezbollah.
Merkel welcomed the proposal as an important step towards ending the almost month-long conflict in Lebanon.