Vienna, 14 November 2006 - Minister of Foreign Affairs Ursula Plassnik and Minister of Defence Günther Platter have made every effort from the very outset to clear up the circumstances surrounding the death of Major Hans-Peter Lang and to extract lessons for the future from this tragic accident. We owe it to the memory of Major Lang and the many thousand UN soldiers serving the cause of peace worldwide to guarantee their safety to the utmost and to ensure as far as possible that incidents of this nature do not occur again in the future.
After the tragic incident Foreign Minister Plassnik was in frequent direct contact with the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and demanded a full explanation. Reports were submitted by both the UN and by Israel. Israel has accepted complete responsibility for the bombing of the UN observation post in Khiam and made a full apology for this grave incident.
Foreign Minister Plassnik and Defence Minister Platter in person and members of staff of both ministries have been in regular contact with Major Lang’s family. They were informed of Austria’s efforts to obtain clarification of the incident as quickly as possible. They were subsequently explained the results of the investigation reports by the UN and Israel. Ms Faizi also held discussions with the Secretary-General in the Foreign Ministry - without the intervention of the MP Peter Pilz, incidentally. It must now be ensured that Major Lang’s family receives compensation without delay. Austria also supports all efforts by the Lang family with respect to the UN. In addition, Foreign Minister Plassnik has suggested to Israel that it make a gesture of goodwill in the form, for example, of a contribution to the education of Major Lang’s minor son. Israel has stated that it would give this suggestion serious consideration.
The Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence have instructed their representatives in New York to insist in the relevant UN forums in agreement with the Finnish expert group that the recommendations regarding Khiam in the UN investigation commission are systematically implemented, particularly regarding improvements in communications between UN troops and the armed forces of the host country and the parties to the conflict, so that an effective link can be rapidly established in the an emergency. Austria also emphatically supports the demand that the presence of illegal armed groups in the vicinity of UN posts should be explicitly outlawed in future Security Council peace operation mandates.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-213