Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his Jerusalem residence Saturday night; Rice reveals initial plans for international peacekeeping force: France, Lebanese army to take part, and will also guard Syria-Lebanon border. Leaders agree diplomatic agreement dependant on release of kidnapped soldiers.
The French and Lebanese armies will take part in the multinational peacekeeping force expected to take position along the southern Lebanese border, it was revealed following a meeting between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem.
The two met at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem late Saturday night for nearly two hours, most of which was spent in one-on-one talks.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch, National Security Council Director for Near East and North African Affairs Elliot Abrams on the American side and Olmert’s chief-of-staff Dr. Yoram Turbovitz, his diplomatic advisor Shalom Turgeman, and his military adviser Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni for the Israeli side also joined in for some of the talks.
The meeting was reportedly held in a cordial atmosphere, and between the diplomatic deliberations, Rice and Olmert took dinner together. Olmert’s office said that during the entire meeting, Rice did not at all press the issue of a ceasefire .
Towards a diplomatic solution
The two leaders agreed that any diplomatic arrangement to end the fighting would be dependent on the release of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev .
Regarding the establishment of a multinational peacekeeping force, the conditions for its establishment, the length of its mandate and its responsibilities were not yet finalized, although Rice expressed optimism that it would be set up very soon.
Olmert and Rice did not discuss the size of multinational peacekeeping force to be established. Likewise, the question of which countries, other than France and Lebanon, would partake in the force was not confronted.
However, Rice did note that the Lebanese and French armies would deploy along the Syrian-Lebanese border to the east, as well as along the southern border with Israel.
Minimizing humanitarian crisis
The two also did not discuss Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s proposal for a ceasefire. However, Rice did request of the prime minister that Israel avoid striking Lebanese infrastructure.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau noted that Rice expressed her appreciation to Israel for its actions towards easing the humanitarian crisis for Lebanese citizens by opening channels for the transport of aid.
According to Rice, Israel’s cooperation in enabling aid delivery via the Beirut airport, seaports and by land greatly contributed to the US’s stance during the Rome summit last week in which representatives from 15 nations convened to brainstorm solutions for the Israel-Lebanon crisis.