Middle East UN envoy urges restraint following downing of Lebanese aircraft

Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon, made his comments in Beirut in the wake of what he described as a “tragic incident.” The civilian aircraft, which had no authorization to fly from Lebanon into Israel, was shot down by the Israeli Air Force after having failed to respond to warnings.The envoy said the event served as an “important reminder of the highly volatile situation in the region, and in particular along the Blue Line, in relation with the first anniversary of Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon.”Calling on all sides to exercise maximum restraint during the forthcoming critical days, Mr. de Mistura said, “we should not underestimate the negative effects of the almost daily violations by the Israeli Air Force across the Blue Line and the unjustified sonic booms deep inside Lebanon, which in turn contribute to increasing tension.”The UN still has not obtained complete details on the incident and the pilot’s intentions, according to the statement.Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon was officially confirmed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a report submitted to the Security Council on 16 June 2000.In Jerusalem today, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle-East, Terje Roed-Larsen, said the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was a victory for the people of both countries.Commenting on today’s aerial incident and the motives behind it, Mr. Roed-Larsen said “all violations of the Blue Line, whether intentioned or not, must not occur.”

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