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Special Event

Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Holds News Briefing at the United Nations

Aired November 2, 2000 - 10:46 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now the Israeli foreign minister speaking at the United Nations, this on the latest in the Middle East. We will pick up his comments live and see what we can gain here.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SHLOMO BEN-AMI, ISRAELI ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER: ... Kofi Annan, we reviewed the situation on the ground between us and the Palestinian. The two of us expressed deep sorrow and concern for the recent terrorist attack that took place in Jerusalem. From our viewpoint, it only vindicated the case we were trying to make. And that is that the Palestinian Authority has released a number of Palestinian Hamas and the Islamic Jihad terrorist, and there is a signal, or gave a green light to terrorist activities. And it is very sad that we needed this terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem to prove our point.

Nevertheless, we would like to stick to the understandings of Sharm el-Sheikh, understandings that were further underlined and emphasized yesterday in the meeting between Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. We are still waiting for the chairman to come before his people and convey a clear-cut message about the need to stop the violence.

We expect the Sharm memorandum to be observed the way it would have been done from the beginning.

I also spoke with the secretary-general about the -- about the -- the U.N.'s responsibility, with regard to the observation of the implementation of 425. Israel withdrew from Lebanon, within the framework of Security Council Resolution 425. And the result is that Hezbollah terrorists are acting against the Israeli soldiers, abducting Israeli soldiers from the Shaba area, which, according to the special report of the secretary-general himself, should be under Israel's control, given the substance of -- of the implementation of 425.

So we expressed our concern, and we urged the secretary-general to be as active as he possibly can, in order to bring about the release of the Israeli soldiers. As a whole, we see Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a major friend of the peace process in the Middle East. Very creative, very resourceful, very helpful, and we see him always, always we will see him as a valid interlocutor, in order to encourage the parties to assume the road of peace. Thank you.

QUESTION: The secretary-general give you his views on the Palestinian proposal for a U.N. force in the West Bank and Gaza? and also, did he give you any indication that you had made any progress in his efforts to try and secure the release of the Israeli soldiers?

BEN-AMI: Well, with regard to the first point, I made it clear to him, just as I made it clear to other interlocutors over the last week, that there is no need at all for any kind of international force. We are -- we have been until the last month, in the middle of a peace process, in fact, the peace process has been in existence in the Middle East for the last seven years.

The only thing that we need to do now is simply to cease violence, to observe the Sharm el-Sheikh memorandum, and get back to the business of peace making. There is no need for any kind of international force or international for the parties. The parties need to simply to say to themselves and to the world and to their respective peoples, if they want peace or if they don't want peace. So we need to resume the peace talks, period.

With regard to the, to the Israeli soldiers, the secretary- general briefed me about the contacts that he and his people and the Red Cross conducted, with regard to this sad affair, to no avail yet, to no avail yet.

Hezbollah hasn't yet given to the different mediators any, any signal that the soldiers are there. We want to know that they are there. We need them to be visible. This is a pre-condition for any kind of future demarge (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, first, just a quick follow-up on the peace process -- on the peace process. If today's actions by both the Israelis and the Palestinians go ahead as planned, what would be the next step in trying to revive the peace process, to get talks back on schedule? And secondly, the Lebanese government this morning rejected the secretary-general's report, which, as you know, called for government troops to deploy down to the border.

BEN-AMI: With regard to the reactivation of the peace process, it was inherent in the Sharm memorandum that after the cessation of hostilities, and one of the parties abide by their commitments, within a couple of weeks, Israelis and the Palestinians, together with the Americans, will explore the ways to resume the talks.

Prime Minister Barak is scheduled to be here in America, I know that Chairman Arafat will be here probably next week. And this is a very good opportunity for the president, in unilateral meetings, with the -- with them to explore indeed, according to the letter and the spirit of Sharm el-Sheikh, what will be the best way to reactivate the peace process.

It remains our policy that the only solution to the problem between us and the Palestinians is, indeed, a political one. This is why we need to bring down the level of violence and get back to the business of peace making. With regard to Lebanon, it is up to the U.N. to see that the Lebanese government abides by its international commitments. I hear Arab parties frequently use the term "international legitimacy." Well, here we have international legitimacy. We want international legitimacy to be respected in Lebanon. As simple as that. Thank you.

QUESTION: Prime minister, one more question, please.

HEMMER: All right, there we had the very latest from the United Nations in New York with the Israeli foreign minister, the acting foreign minister right now for the Israeli government.

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