Wien, 10. November 2006 Press release

Plassnik: "Lessons to be drawn for the best possible protection of our UN soldiers"

10.11.2006

Foreign Minister on the publication of the Khiam Report by Finnish experts

Vienna, 10 November 2006 - "The experts' report essentially corresponds with our findings based on the review of the UN report and the representation by the Israeli army. Nobody can undo the tragic events of Khiam. But it has been a concern of mine and Federal Minister Günther Platter's to draw the respective lessons for the future. We owe it to the memory of Major Hans-Peter Lang and the many thousands of UN soldiers who uphold peace worldwide to ensure that their safety is assured in the best possible way and that incidents of this kind are not repeated in the future," commented Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following today's publication of the national Finnish experts' report on the bombardment of the UN observation base at Khiam in July.

Austria is therefore calling for consistent implementation of the recommendations given by the UN investigation commission in its report on Khiam, which is also demanded by Finland in its report. This applies in particular to the improvement of communication between the UN troops and the armed forces of the host country and/or the parties to the conflict in order to ensure swift and effective communication in emergency situations. The demand according to which the presence of illegal armed groups in the immediate vicinity of UN posts should be explicitly forbidden in mandates of the Security Council for peace-keeping operations is also fully supported by Austria. "We shall undertake all efforts to ensure full and immediate implementation of these proposals. In doing so, we shall continue to cooperate closely with our colleagues from Finland, Canada, and China, which also had casualties," said Plassnik.

"However, our endeavours are not only aimed at achieving the best possible protection for our UN soldiers in their difficult and dangerous work. We are also looking after the family of Major Hans-Peter Lang, who was so tragically killed," emphasised Plassnik. The first concern was to ensure that Major Hans-Peter Lang's family received adequate compensation, and in that respect Austria was supporting all efforts undertaken by the Lang family vis-à-vis the UN. "Moreover, in my contacts with Israel I suggested a good will gesture. This would, for instance, involve an amount for the education of Major Lang's son, who is a minor. The Israeli side expressed its readiness to examine this proposal. Nobody can undo Hans-Peter Lang's death, but we can send out a signal of respect and gratitude," said Plassnik. The Foreign Minister recalled that Israel had assumed full responsibility for the bombardment of the UN observation post at Khiam and that it had submitted a formal apology to her for this momentous incident.

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