Russian FM Sergei Lavrov
Thursday evening, in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is visiting in Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that "until the kidnapped soldiers are released, there will not be full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. Israel is implementing its side of the resolution, and thus, Lebanon must do the same and release the two kidnapped soldiers immediately."
Lavrov arrived in Israel at the end of his tour in the Middle East. During his meeting with the prime minister, the two discussed Olmert's anticipated visit to Moscow on Oct. 18th, pursuant to an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit will mark the 15th anniversary of renewed diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia.
During the meeting, Olmert spoke of the removal of the aerial blockade on Lebanon and said that the naval blockade currently would remain in effect. It was decided, in coordination with UN forces, to postpone the lifting of the naval blockade because Israel is still waiting for the arrival of the international forces to implement the weapons embargo along the coast, he said.
Olmert expressed hopes that preparations of Italian, Greek and French forces would be as expedient as possible and that they will soon come replace IDF forces in monitoring the Lebanon coast.
Willing to talk to Abbas
Lavrov and Olmert also spoke of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah. Lavrov stated that UNSCR 1701 would be implemented in its entirety by all sides.
He said that he hoped for the quick release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers in Lebanon, as well as Gilad Shalit. Lavrov expressed President Putin's empathy regarding the issue and said that he hoped that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's efforts would come to fruition.
Olmert (R) and Lavrov (Photo: AP)
Regarding Syria, the prime minister said that the country continues to host terrorist organizations operating against Israel. "If they wanted to promote peace – they wouldn't behave thus," he said. Olmert also addressed the issue of negotiation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has returned in recent months to outlines of the Road Map.
"I said in the past that we consent to take a step towards Abbas and indicate to the Middle East that we support the moderates and we even planned to release prisoners, but after the kidnap of Gilad Shalit, it is clear that the situation has changed. We're willing to talk to Abbas, but only based on the Road Map," he said.
Lavrov communicated a message from leaders in Damascus, stating that Syria is interested in peace now more than ever. "People don't want to continue the conflict…Everyone wants to sit around a negotiation table. We…support Israel's complete right to peace and security. Events in the Middle East in the past decade show that the only way to achieve this is through peace," he said.
"We are convinced that the blockade of Lebanon must be lifted and that its army must deploy in south Lebanon in order to allow the IDF to withdraw from there as quickly as possible. But we are also convinced that peace will only be reached with the help of an international committee, containing all parties in the conflict," Lavrov added.
Olmert addressed the issue of Shebaa farms and said that if the territory is determined to be Lebanese, and not Syrian as was formerly determined by the UN Secretary General, and if Lebanon will implement fully UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, including the disarmament of Hizbullah, he would agree to discuss the issue.
"I have no objection to meeting with Siniora and discussing all issues with him. Nonetheless, as long as there is terror, there can be no political progress," he declared.