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Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
22 June 2000
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ISRAEL, 21-22 JUNE
The Secretary-General travelled overland from Amman, Jordan, to Israel in the morning of Wednesday, 21 June. He met with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, at the King David Hotel, for about an hour, during which they discussed southern Lebanon. The Secretary-General said it was remarkable that Israel's withdrawal had happened so quickly and without incident, and that he appreciated Israel's close cooperation with the United Nations, as well as that of other actors in the region, that made this possible.
The Secretary-General gave an account of the concerns that had been raised with him in Beirut, including Lebanon's allegations of Israeli encroachments into Lebanese territory, which were being investigated by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). It was important to avoid even the perception of violations, he said as this could be destabilizing.
At midday, the Secretary-General met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Their talks focussed primarily on southern Lebanon, but also touched on the Middle East peace process as a whole.
The Prime Minister then hosted a luncheon for the Secretary-General and his delegation. Afterwards they gave a press conference, which the Prime Minister opened by saying that he believed that the Secretary-General's "commitment to and devotion to the cause of making peace" had contributed to the future stability of the region.
The Secretary-General responded that he felt that the Israeli Defence Force's withdrawal from Lebanon was "an important building block on the long road to peace".
Other issues discussed during the Secretary-General's visit included the representations made to him by the Lebanese Government about its nationals held by Israel.
At their request, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, met with the families of Israelis missing in action and received on behalf of the Secretary-General a letter from the inhabitants of Rajar.
That afternoon, the Secretary-General visited Government House, the headquarters of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the United Nations first peacekeeping mission in the Middle East. He met privately with UNTSO's Chief of Staff, Major General Franco Ganguzza, before addressing the staff.
On Wednesday evening, he attended a dinner in his honour hosted by the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman.
Early on Thursday morning, the Secretary-General had a second meeting with Prime Minister Barak to discuss the outstanding withdrawal issues between Israel and Lebanon. Both he and the Prime Minister had stated the previous day that they hoped to resolve these issues in the next day or two.
They agreed that senior Israeli military officials, accompanied by United Nations peacekeepers from the UNIFIL would travel to the "blue line" to inspect the remaining areas of contention. They also agreed to streamline procedures for reporting alleged violations and investigating them. UNIFIL would also improve the liaison arrangements with both Israel and Lebanon. In the end, the Secretary- General insisted that the United Nations would make the final determination. The Secretary-General hoped that all outstanding issues could be resolved before he departed the Middle East on Friday.
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For information media - not an official record