While the cross-border conflict between Israel and militants in southern Lebanon continues to escalate, diplomatic efforts to end the crisis are gathering pace. France has stepped into the fray, with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin meeting his Lebanese counterpart Fouad Siniora in an apparent show of solidarity with the Lebanese people. Villepin called for an immediate truce on humanitarian grounds and an international mission to police the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and liberty are an absolute priority that should be respected, he said. Siniora has distanced himself from Hezbollah’s cross-border attack and abduction of two Israeli soldiers last week which touched off the violence. He says his government should not be held responsible for it and is calling for international help.
A three-man team representing the United Nations is at the centre of the current flurry of diplomatic activity.Yesterday they were in Israel, where special envoy Vijay Nambiar said progress was being made. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also set to visit the region, though a date has not been set.