Vienna, 26 July 2006 - Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik called her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni this morning. Based on the statement made by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Plassnik lodged a strong protest by Austria against the shelling of a UN observation post in Lebanon by the Israeli air force. An Austrian UN observer was reported to have been at the post at the time of the attack on the UN position. At the moment, no reliable information is available concerning his fate.
The Austrian Foreign Minister informed her counterpart of the Austrian Federal Government’s outrage at this incident and demanded immediate and full clarification. "An attack of this nature on unarmed UN observers is absolutely unacceptable and completely unjustifiable", Plassnik emphasised.
The Foreign Minister urgently called upon Israel to put an immediate end to the attacks on this area. Because of the continued fighting it is currently impossible to advance to the affected bunker. "The United Nations must be granted immediate, full and safe access to the shelled UN post. Moreover, the Israeli Government should take the necessary measures to ensure that UN posts will not become the target of further attacks", Plassnik underlined.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed her deep regret over the incident, explaining that it had not been a targeted attack on the UN post. An action of that nature was fully inconsistent with Israel’s values and rules. Livni promised that the incident would be fully investigated without further delay. As regards access to the attacked UN position Livni stated that she would personally contact Israel’s defence minister right away.
Israel’s ambassador to Vienna was promptly summoned to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Plassnik also recalled in this context that the EU has urgently called upon Israel to put an end to the violence and to refrain from any disproportionate action. All military operations had to be in line with international law with account being taken of the inviolability of the United Nations. This naturally also held true for the protection and security of UN soldiers and observers based in the Israeli-Lebanese border region.
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