|Chirac warns of more fighting if lasting solution isn't found
|French President Jacques Chirac warned Monday that fighting could resume in Lebanon without a lasting settlement, as he urged Iran and Syria to end their international isolation and help seek an end to years of conflict.
In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech, Chirac urged all parties to help prevent a resumption of fighting in Lebanon.
"The choice is between a resumption of hostilities, creating a permanent rift between two neighboring peoples, and the political option of a global and lasting settlement," Chirac said.
Painting a bleak picture of the Middle East, he added violence in the region might get out of control unless the peace process was revived.
"Everyone can clearly see that in the Middle East, the fracture lines join up and the crises grow," Chirac said, adding the key issue was the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Over and above these clashes, there is a bigger danger, that of a divorce between worlds. East against West, Islam against Christianity, rich against poor," Chirac said. "The gamble for peace and security also concerns Iran and Syria," he added, urging Damascus to "abandon its insular mentality."
"[Syria] has the calling to retake its place at the table of nations, respecting the international legality and sovereignty of its neighbors. The Middle East needs Syria to be working actively for peace and stability in the region," he said, adding he wanted a rapid meeting of the "Quartet" of Middle East peace brokers - the US, the UN, the EU and Russia - to look at ways of resuming peace talks.
"To resign oneself to the status quo is to risk being trapped in a cycle of violence which will get out of control. Israel legitimately aspires to security, but security does not go without justice," he added.
The president said the war on Lebanon had undone 15 years of hard work rebuilding the Lebanese economy, and called for a "vast outpouring of solidarity" at a planned international conference for Lebanon.
He also repeated a call for Israel to end its crippling blockade of Lebanon. He urged UN chief Kofi Annan to "kick start the political process" during his Middle East tour, saying Resolution 1701 provided "the framework for a lasting settlement."
That must include the "disarming of militias," Chirac said, as well as a settlement over the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms.
Chirac said he regretted the EU did not play a larger role from the start in ending the fighting in Lebanon, saying it must be a strong agent for peace.
He described the Iran as "a great country" and urged it to negotiate with world powers over its nuclear ambitions.
"Iran will not find security in the development of hidden [nuclear] programs, but in its full immersion in the heart of the international community," Chirac said. "Once again, I urge Tehran to send the necessary signals to create the conditions for trust. There is always room for dialogue."
The Daily Star