Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office
Lebanese hostages in Israel
Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Office

Mediator: Israel-Hizbullah prisoner swap within days

Lebanese Christian clergyman tells Al-Biyan newspaper that Israel has agreed to transfer Lebanese prisoners, bodies of Hizbullah fighters in return for freeing Israeli hostages. According to Abboud, all that is necessary to complete process is appointment of UN representative

Negotiations regarding the exchange of prisoners betweenIsrael and Hizbullah are taking place through indirect channels and a deal may be finalized within days, Lebanese Christian clergyman Jean Abboud told the Arab newspaper Al-Biyan.


In an interview published Saturday in the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Abboud said that the mediators had achieved “important results” and that Israel had agreed to transfer the dead bodies of Hizbullah operatives as well as the Lebanese prisoners. Abboud has been recognized lately as involved in the mediated negotiations.


“The process has ripened,” he told interviewers. “What is necessary to complete it is the appointment of a UN representative in the matter, and I don’t know why one hasn’t been appointed yet.”


Across three capitals

Regarding the negotiations between Israel and Hizbullah, Abboud said, “The talks are being held between three capitals – Beirut, Brussels and Tel Aviv.”


“In Beirut, with Jubran Basil representing Lebanese parliament member General Michel Aoun and Hizbullah representative Wafik Safa; in Brussels with a European Union representative and the Belgian prime minister who are in touch with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,” Abboud detailed.


Abboud currently resides in Europe. On his own involvement in the affair, he said, “I know how Israel thinks, as I lived in Beit Jala for a number of years. I speak Hebrew, which helped me succeed in the indirect negotiations in a way that will contribute to Lebanese and Israeli interests.”


Abboud: 'Hostage' means 'alive'

As for the fate of the two IDF soldiers being held hostage by Hizbullah, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, Abboud said: “When Nasrallah announced the hostage operation on July 12, he said the resistance killed eight Israeli soldiers and took two hostages. “Hostage” means “alive” in the Arabic language, which Nasrallah commands indisputably, and in every other language as well and in the language of international law too… “


“The upcoming days will bear news to the prisoners’ families on both sides,” he promised.


This is not the first time that Abboud’s name has been tied up in news of the negotiations between Israel and Hizbullah. Just two weeks ago, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai al-Aam reported that Lebanese member of parliament retired General Michel Aoun flew to Belgium for a hasty visit in attempt to orchestrate negotiations on the prisoner exchange deal.


However, in the present interview, Abboud said the reports on General Aoun’s talks with the Israelis were “completely false.” He rebuffed the report in the Kuwaiti newspaper as well as other parallel reports. His very denials, however, make apparent the stickiness of any reports on the top-secret prisoner-swap negotiations.


פרסום ראשון: 09.23.06, 18:27
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