Arab League, Group of Eight leaders discuss crisis in the Levant

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The international nature of the crisis between Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah was discussed in an emergency summit of the Arab League in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, and by Group of Eight leaders in St Petersburg, Russia, Sunday.

The Arab League failed to reach an agreement on the issue while the Group of Eight released a joint statement. The Arab League released three separate statements on Lebanon.

The meetings came after Hezbollah attacked Israel on July 12, killing six soldiers and kidnapping two. Israel retaliated by attacking Lebanon, which lead to over 100 civilian deaths. Hezbollah has fired 700 missiles across the border, causing civilian casualties in Israeli towns, including Haifa.

Arab League

On Saturday, the Arab League convened a one-day meeting on the crisis in the Levant in Cairo, together with member countries' foreign ministers, on the invitation of Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.

The Council of Arab Foreign Ministers failed to reach an agreement on a joint statement about the conflict and instead released separate statements.

"We're facing the prospect of a total security collapse in the region," said the Secretary-General of the Arab League. Amr Moussa also said the peace process in the region was "dead."

"The peace process in the Middle East was killed. All mechanisms, including the Middle East Quartet (Russia, US, UN and EU) have canceled the peace process.”

During the discussions the Arab League promised Lebanon “unconditional support.”

There was, however, disagreement over Hezbollah. Saudi Foreign Minister al-Faisal accused Hezbollah of “inappropriate and irresponsible” behaviour and was supported in his view by delegates from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The Syrian delegate Velid Muallim disagreed.

Group of Eight

Group of Eight leaders met in St Petersburg on Sunday and worked out a joint statement on the crisis in the Levant.

While they asked Israel to stop attacking Lebanon and "an early withdrawal" from Gaza they demanded Hezbollah release the taken Israeli soldiers and stop their attacks on Israel. "The extremists must immediately halt their attacks," said the leaders in the jointly-released statement but also Israel should release the recently arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

The Group of Eight leaders also accepted Israel's right to defend against attacks - as long as they did so proportionally.

The joint statement was summarised with the four following points

  • Israeli soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon should be returned, unharmed;
  • The attacks into Israeli territory should stop;
  • Israeli military operations must end and Israeli forces must make "an early withdrawal" from Gaza;
  • The arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians must be released.

Israel welcomed the statement.

"Israel concurs with the position of the international community, which places responsibility for the conflict on extremist elements," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.