14 JULY 2006

Mr. President,

I, too, would like to join my colleagues in thanking USG Guehenno for his informative briefing on the latest developments in the Middle East, focusing on the situation in Southern Lebanon.

The Middle East has seen continuing deterioration over the past several months. The attacks by Hizbollah across the Blue Line, the abduction of two Israeli soldiers and the ensuing developments have further destabilized the already fragile situation in the region, which is extremely worrying.

Japan strongly condemns the attacks by Hizbollah, which are a blatant breach of relevant Security Council resolutions, as well as the abduction of the Israeli soldiers. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the soldiers.

Japan is deeply concerned that these developments of the past few days will have a negative impact on the efforts for peace in the region as a whole. We therefore call upon all parties to exercise maximum self-restraint in order to avoid further deterioration in the situation.

Japan acknowledges the legitimate security concerns of Israel. Having said that, we strongly urge Israel to refrain from excessive use of force and, in particular, from actions that endanger the civilian population and infrastructure, as was the case in the Israeli military operations on 13 July, which have caused many civilian casualties and the destruction of airport facilities in Lebanon.

Mr. President,

Japan concurs in the belief that political stability in Lebanon is critical for the peace and stability of the Middle East. To that end, we commend and support the efforts by the Lebanese government for full sovereignty and the expansion of political independence. We recognize that the disarming and disbanding of Hizbollah is a matter of crucial importance which directly relates to the extension of control by the Government of Lebanon over all of its territory. The recent events underscore the importance of achieving these goals. We hope that the Government of Lebanon will commit itself to a continuous, sustained effort to reach these goals and call on the Government to make every effort to secure the release of the Israeli soldiers.

Our view is that overcoming the present crisis in the region requires the international community to continue its cooperation in tandem. From this perspective, Japan welcomes the decision of the Secretary-General to dispatch a team led by his Special Political Advisor, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, to the Middle East to help defuse the current major crisis in the region.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, let me note that Prime Minister Koizumi has been on a visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan from 11 July to today. The Prime Minister made the following remarks in a joint media conference with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert after their meeting: "I realize that it is an extremely hard time for the Israeli people, who are trying to cope with the incident occurring on the 11th in addition to the difficult situation regarding the Gaza Strip, which has continued for quite some time. It is of greater importance, however, to have a rational reaction, based on a far-sighted recognition of the importance of achieving co-existence and mutual prosperity in the mid and long term, rather than taking an 'eye for an eye' approach".

Japan strongly hopes that the leaders in the region will employ wisdom and judgment in addressing the current critical situation.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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