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Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle addresses the German Bundestag on the UNIFIL operation

26.11.2009 - Speech

Madam President, Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Federal Government I ask for your approval for the continuation of the participation of German armed forces in UNIFIL, the United Nations operation in and off the coast of Lebanon.

I do so as someone who, three years ago, voted here in Parliament against German participation in this mission – not, you note, against the mission itself. Every Federal Government has a responsibility even for the actions of its predecessors. At the beginning of a new term, this is obviously true also with regard to foreign policy. This is not a flaw, it is a strength. This is the basis for the continuity which has made German foreign policy so successful. Let there be absolutely no doubt about it: the new Federal Government, and I as Foreign Minister, naturally stand by the agreements made during your time in government.

It is continuity in foreign policy which has made the Federal Republic of Germany a reliable alliance partner for the international community. But continuity does not mean simply carrying on exactly as before. So the Federal Government will reduce the maximum number of soldiers to be deployed on the mission from 1200 to 800 and limit Germany’s UNIFIL mandate until 30 June 2010.

Germany has a strategic interest in lasting peace in the Middle East. And you know how difficult that is; everyone knows how difficult that is. Particularly during my recent visit to the Middle East I was able to sense this very clearly once again during talks.

We have a Resolution, namely Resolution 1701 dating from 2006. This is a crucial element for avoiding renewed armed conflict and for strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability. Along with the security of the State of Israel and the creation of a viable Palestinian state, these aims are the key elements for a regional solution for peace. Such a regional solution remains our prime goal.

Because Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement gives us good reason, and because it was made just a few hours after my trip and my inaugural visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in Ramallah, I would like to say something about it. We all, I believe, regard this as part of Germany’s raison d’être: as Germans, we have a special relationship and a special partnership with the State of Israel. Nothing will change that. We bear a special responsibility, not only for historical reasons, by the way, but also for reasons relating to the present and to our common future.

This does not mean, however, that differences of opinion cannot be voiced. We in Germany stand by this: we want a two-state solution. On the one hand, Israel has without doubt a right to live within secure borders. On the other hand, the Palestinians have the right to their own state. The 2003 roadmap is still valid. In other words, the position in Germany and indeed in the international community as a whole is that there must be a freeze on settlements. This is not only Germany’s view. This is the view of the international community as a whole.

The recent announcements are an important first step. They could bring movement into the settlement question. It is decisive that the parties now quickly find the way to direct negotiations.

Back to the mandate in question: enabling the Lebanese armed forces to fulfil their tasks independently plays a central role. That is why from the outset Germany has taken a dual approach in UNIFIL: monitoring the maritime borders and assisting the Lebanese Navy to build up its own capabilities. This will increasingly enable the Lebanese Navy to monitor the country’s coast and territorial waters independently.

Bilateral training and equipment measures will be of even more importance in the future. It is against this background that the mandate should be extended. The deployment of the Bundeswehr on the ground is part of the Federal Government’s comprehensive engagement for Lebanon and the region. We are advising the relevant Lebanese authorities on border security and on training for customs officers. Advisors funded by the Federal Government are helping to ensure the success of the national dialogue within Lebanon, which is intended to find responses to the military, social and economic challenges facing the country. Don’t get me wrong: this is not an engagement or an achievement of the new Federal Government, but is a reflection of the continuity of foreign policy to date.

Using development cooperation and civil crisis prevention funds, we are helping to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees. As part of our development cooperation, we are assisting the Lebanese Government with reconstruction. We are also providing appropriate support with training and equipment.

Let me conclude, ladies and gentlemen, by saying that these endeavours to strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability are showing some initial success. The parliamentary elections on 7 June this year and the formation of a new Government were important steps in the right direction. The task now is to ensure that all sides in Lebanon continue this path of dialogue responsibly and courageously in order to meet the major challenges facing the country. Together with our partners, Germany will support Lebanon along this path in order to bring a regional solution for peace a bit closer. German participation in UNIFIL until next summer is intended to make a contribution to this end. I think this is continuity, but also an acknowledgement of the relevant developments.

And for this reason I ask you to approve the Federal Government’s motion.

Thank you very much.

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