Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

3 April 2000





Question [faxed from Lebanon]: The Middle East has suffered because international law has not been applied -- specifically Security Council resolutions relating to southern Lebanon and Palestine. In the new millennium, how can the United Nations act to promote implementation of its recommendations regarding the security agenda, to strengthen respect for international law, as well as the United Nations capacity to conduct peace operations?

The Secretary-General: I want to thank our friend in Lebanon for the question, but let me say that the United Nations is all of us, the United Nations is your Government, my Government and the other governments. If we all determine that Security Council resolutions should be implemented and that we will apply ourselves to their implementation, I think we will make progress.

Coming to your specific question regarding southern Lebanon, let me say that there seems to be considerable movement and discussion on this topic, and that tomorrow in Geneva I will be meeting Foreign Minister Levy of Israel to discuss this specific issue. I cannot say anything about it until after the meeting, but I think there is some movement on your issue.


Question: Quite a number of parties have been expressing fear about a unilateral withdrawal by Israel from southern Lebanon. Of course, this is where the United Nations is involved with troops. Have you in mind to discuss this with Mr. Levy and encourage him that it should be through a negotiated settlement, that you might not be able to really do it, you are worried about your troops in southern Lebanon? Or do you think you have enough contingency plans for an implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) without any concern? And what is your assessment of the post-Geneva summit between Mr. Assad and Mr. Clinton? Do you share the view that it was a failure, or do you still hope there will be solution?

The Secretary-General: I have said in this room several times that I would prefer to see withdrawal from southern Lebanon be part of an agreement on the broader front -- that is, Israel, Syria, Lebanon. Given what happened in Geneva between President Assad and President Clinton, it looks as if there is a hitch on the Syrian-Israeli track. I refer to it as a hitch, because I hope it will be possible to unblock it and move forward, to resolve the differences and sign a peace agreement between the two countries. But the Israeli authorities have made it quite clear that, with or without that agreement, they intend to withdraw from southern Lebanon by July at the latest. I expect I will hear more from Foreign Minister Levy when I meet him tomorrow in Geneva.

If they have to withdraw, you are right, the United Nations troops are on the ground, and we have resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), which give the Secretary-General certain responsibilities for implementing the resolutions. I think we will have to talk with the parties and see how we carry out our responsibilities. But we do have responsibilities under the resolutions.

Question: As a follow-up: In the case of a unilateral withdrawal, are you worried about the consequences in southern Lebanon and particularly for the United Nations troops?

The Secretary-General: Well, if the withdrawal comes outside a broader agreement, obviously it is not an ideal situation. But in this world we do not always deal with just the ideal situations. We will have to cope with it.


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