EU welcomes Israel-Hezbollah prisoner exchange

July 16th, 2008 - 10:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, July 16 (DPA) Wednesday’s prisoner exchange between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement was “first and foremost a positive step taken by both sides,” which contributed towards regional stability, European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. Ferrero-Waldner made the remarks as Israel and Hezbollah were carrying out a prisoner swap which saw the Shia movement return to the bodies of two Israeli soldiers snatched during a July 12, 2006 cross border raid, in exchange for five Lebanese prisoners and 199 bodies which had been buried in a special Israeli cemetery for enemy non-combatants.

The cross-border raid sparked the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

In a statement, Ferrero-Waldner said the exchange was “also a step toward full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” which was passed Aug 11, 2006 and ended the war.

“I am satisfied that this exchange of prisoners finally takes place. We have called for this on many occasions during the past two years and now it becomes a reality,” she said.

“At the same time the families of all persons missing have a right to know about the fate of their beloved relatives, irrespective of how painful this news might be. And I do think that those whose loved ones have died deserve to receive the remains for burial,” the statement continued.

Hezbollah had not given any indication of the fate or condition of the two soldiers it snatched, and their deaths were confirmed only on Wednesday morning, when Israel received two coffins carrying their remains.

“I do hope that we will see further steps in this direction as this region and its people deserve to be able to live in peace and stability,” Ferrero-Waldner said.

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