Disputed. Shebaa Farms
Photo: Reuters
Photo: AP
Not hopeful. Fayyad
Photo: AP

Lebanon says Israeli withdrawal needed prior to peace talks

Lebanese parliament sends chilly response to Prime Minister Olmert's call for peace talks between Israel, Beirut; says Israel ceding Shebaa Farms prerequisite for negotiations

Lebanon poured cold water Wednesday on Israel's hope that Beirut would follow Damascus in opening peace talks with Israel, saying it had to withdraw from what Beirut considers its occupied land.


Lebanon's response came after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet on Tuesday he hoped Lebanon would consider opening talks on peace with the Jewish state.


Israel and Syria have been holding indirect talks under Turkish auspices and further meetings in Turkey are expected later this week.


The caretaker Lebanese government said Israel had to withdraw from the disputed Shebaa Farms region in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. The region, a small area in the foothills of the Golan Heights, is considered Lebanese by the Lebanese government but the United Nations says it is Syrian land.


Israel annexed the area in the 1967 War, a move not recognized by the international community.


"With regards to bilateral issues hanging between Lebanon and Israel, they are dictated by international resolutions concerning Israel, specifically (UN) resolutions 425 and 1701 and these are not subject to political negotiation," The government's media office said in a statement.


"Lebanon seeks to enforce these two decisions completely especially with concerns to the end of the occupation of the Shebaa Farms."


The statement said once Israel withdrew from Lebanese land, Lebanon got back its prisoners and received maps of landmines and cluster bombs which were used in previous wars, "a truce agreement between Lebanon and Israel will be in effect".


'Peace before year's end impossible'

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Wednesday he believed it would be impossible to reach a peace deal with Israel this year.


Talks on Palestinian statehood have shown little progress since their launch at a conference in Annapolis, in November. Washington has said it hoped for a framework deal before US President George Bush leaves office in January 2009.


But Fayyad cited Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank as an obstacle to progress in the negotiations: "I have a strong feeling that is tantamount to certainty that a solution won't be achieved this year," Fayyad told reporters, ahead of a planned visit to the region this weekend by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Fayyad angered Israel when he sent a letter to the European Union last month accusing the Israeli government of "flagrant disregard" of Palestinian rights by continuing to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and refusing to remove checkpoints that hamper economic development.


Israel said it intends to keep major settlement blocs in the West Bank under any future peace deal with the Palestinians and that its network of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank helps to prevent attacks on Israelis.


The talks also have been marred by violence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and a corruption scandal that threatens to force Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from office.


פרסום ראשון: 06.11.08, 17:46
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