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Middle east

Kouchner calls for Israel's neighbours to ease tensions

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-23

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (pictured) visited both Damascus and Beirut Sunday, to put pressure on the two countries to continue improving their relationship with neighbouring Israel, and respect a 2006 ceasefire in Lebanon.

AFP - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called in Damascus and Beirut on Sunday for an easing of tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbours, urging all sides to respect a 2006 ceasefire in Lebanon.

"We cannot be resigned to a constant state of tension, even if it is decreasing," Kouchner told journalists after a meeting in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He renewed an appeal for all sides to respect UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which ended a devastating month-long war in 2006 between Israel and Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

The resolution bans the delivery of arms to the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah.

In Damascus, Kouchner expressed France's concern over Hezbollah's weaponry, to which Assad gave assurances it was not in the interests of Damascus, Tehran or Hezbollah to trigger a new conflict, a French diplomatic source said.

The source, asking not to be named, said that France as a peace broker also wanted to encourage Syria to ease tensions in the region and not to facilitate the delivery of arms to Hezbollah.

After Damascus, the foreign minister travelled on to Beirut from where he was to head for Egypt to wind up his regional tour in Cairo.

Israeli President Shimon Peres sparked controversy last month when he accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles, a charge Damascus has staunchly rejected.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made similar allegations at the end of April, saying Syria and Iran were providing Hezbollah with rockets and missiles of ever-increasing capability.

Date created : 2010-05-23

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