Israel’s move to lift its blockade of Lebanon will speed up the Lebanese recovery: Annan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan briefing correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York on the issue of the Middle East. (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Welcoming Israel’s decision to lift its blockade of Lebanon tomorrow, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the move will speed up Lebanese reconstruction efforts after the month of conflict and added he would continue to explore all avenues to ensure full implementation of the Security Council resolution that ended the fighting.

“I am pleased that the Israeli Government has agreed to lift its blockade of Lebanon, effective 6pm Beirut local time tomorrow, Thursday, 7 September 2006,” Mr. Annan said in a statement issued in Spain, where he is on the last leg of his shuttle diplomacy aimed at shoring up support for the cessation of hostilities.

“The lifting of the blockade will enable Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his Government to accelerate their economic recovery and reconstruction programme. I would like to thank the governments which contributed to making this possible.”

“I will continue to exert every effort to secure the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, enabling the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority over its territory and to exercise its full sovereignty.”

Mr. Annan, who has visited Israel, Lebanon, Syria and other regional countries in the last two weeks, has repeatedly called for the blockade against Lebanon to be lifted, warning last week that it risked being seen as “collective punishment” of the Lebanese people.

Before arriving in Spain today, the Secretary-General was in Turkey, where Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul officially informed him that Ankara was willing to contribute troops to a strengthened UN force in southern Lebanon, as stipulated in resolution 1701.

Describing the Turkish move as a “bold and noble decision,” Mr. Annan also held talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss further details of the deployment and also met President Ahmed Necdet Sezer.

The meetings in Turkey also covered the issue of the abducted Israeli soldiers and other prisoners and the need to “move forward on reaching a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region, in particular resolving the root cause of the crisis in the Middle East: the Palestinian problem,” a UN statement said. Cyprus and Iraq were also discussed.

Tomorrow the Secretary-General will hold discussions with Spanish officials before returning to New York, a UN spokesman told reporters today.

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