Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's press conference on swap deal with Israel - full transcript

Hizbullah Official Website translation

Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah held a press conference to explain the circumstances of the swap deal with "Israel".

Sayyed Narallah:

May Peace be upon You.

In light of the importance and sensitive nature of out topic today, I will discuss the topic without an introduction. The event does have its emotional, jihadi, and political considerations after all. In truth, there are two addresses; A speech that I address with today in the press conference which does not affect the swap operation. The other I will leave till the next phase, the reception day.

There is a list of salutes, thanks and dedications, as well as a description of the swap, its indications, meanings, and dimensions. There are other sides to the operation, something we will discuss when the young men (hostages) are back in the country and we discuss the matter thoroughly.

Today I will concentrate on the negotiations that occurred in brief and on the content of the agreement and on the upcoming stage of final implementation. I do not wish to talk of the internal political situation.

But a few hours ago we were informed that the British government has issued a motion considering the armed wing of Hizbullah a terrorist organization and placed it on the list of terrorist organizations.

I believe that this decision is completely natural and it is no surprise that it has been issued by a country that established the Zionist entity, a main partner in the displacement of the Palestinian people and the establishment of the tyrannical state of ‘Israel', the state of the Belford promise in the past and the state of Salman Rushie's Satanic Verses in the present.

A few days ago the worst offenses in modern history were addressed to the prophet of Islam Mohammad (pbuh) hurting the feelings of 1.4 billion Muslims meanwhile Britain and its government didn't move a finger.

Compared to the Prophet, who are the Resistance fighters to be accused of terrorism? It is quite natural that the followers of this generous Prophet be accused of terrorism. I view it as a natural decision that was taken too late by the British. Each and every time the usurpers and occupiers of Palestine and Iraq issue a decision of the sort in the rights of resistance movements, we consider it an honor and a medal of honor to us, a testimony that we are in the right position and that we are with the options and interests of our countries.

Here I will stop at the sketchy timing of the issue. You know that the topic of the swap deal has taken a large scope in the Arab and Islamic worlds and in the entire world. The swap deal reflects a civilized humanitarian image of the resistance in Lebanon and the latter's respect of human values and dignity when it insists on refusing to leave behind any prisoner in captivity, and even more when it insists on revealing the fates of martyrs and their corpses.

At the time when this (modern) image is presented, it is required of the British to bring forth a negative image of the resistance.

Yet, we have put this matter behind us a long time ago. In any case, the days, months, years, and decades to some will prove that all campaigns of false accusations against the resistance and resistance fighters will be gone with the wind, {{their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing}}(Quraan, 24:39).

As to the negotiations, after the (July 2006) war ended and UNSCR 1701 was issued, an effort was required to resolve the issue of the hostages. Mediation efforts began with the UN Secretary General. There is a mistake in the press. The mediations are international and not German. It is true that the Secretary General authorized a German mediator, but his reference was the secretary general. The German government did intervene to resolve some complexions. But the reference of the mediation was the United Nations and its secretary general.

From the first moment we specified as a condition that the negotiations remain secretive for the soundness of the negotiations. We weren't searching for spotlights. We could have issued a statement weekly and leaked some information and make headlines. But we weren't interested in that. Our true concern is the humanitarian interest: the liberation of the hostages and the return of the pure corpses home. We stayed away from the media. The leaks came from the other party, and we used to reproach it, and it would admit that.

A few weeks ago an initial agreement was reached that required the consent of the enemy's government. The enemy's media has come over the tiniest details meanwhile we have not said a word in an effort to allow the agreement to be successful and complete the exchange operation. One of the valuable lessons we learned form previous swap deals is that the media complicates the operation in that it creates circumstances and preconditions.

I didn't set a ceiling for the hostages. The topic of Samir Kintar was predetermined, but I didn't put a ceiling for the number hostages since that would have complicated the operation. The enemy was waging a war of credibility and non-credibility, a war of breaching decisions and positions, a policy practiced in many parts of the world. I create a high ceiling in the negotiations and not through the media.

Therefore, you may have noticed that this is the first time an official in Hizbullah has spoken out loud on the subject. When the issue was restricted to (Hizbullah's) secretary general, it was for maintaining the secrecy of the issue till the last moment.

The negotiations were difficult and complicated. They were slow and would come to a halt at times for months at a time where nobody had anything new. But we never reached a point where negotiations were over. Even when things froze the two sides would re-launch the negotiations.

Hizbullah's negotiating party exerted huge efforts. The German mediator also went to lengths and lengthy negotiations for hours at a time. This must me mentioned in appreciation of these efforts.

Up till a few months ago, the debate was on the principles after which we went into details. We proposed principles.

First: That the swap include all the Lebanese including Samir Kintar.

Second: That all the corpses of Lebanese, Palestinian, and Arab martyrs that are still being held in numbered graves be returned.

Third: Determining the fate of the missing, particularly those missing since 1982 and earlier. This was a difficult issue.

The last part: freeing Palestinians and Arabs as a principle. This principle was placed and worked on in the negotiations alongside the four Iranian diplomats that we believe that the Lebanese Forces handed over to the enemy who still has them.

On the other side, the ‘Israelis' had the issue of Ron Arad and the two ‘Israeli' soldiers captured by the resistance. The enemy had forgotten the issue of the remains of over ten soldiers in the aftermath of the July war.

From the start the enemy agreed to free the Lebanese hostages without Kintar. Here I note that the Lebanese hostages and their families bore two years of suffering though they would have been freed from the beginning, but we insisted that Samir Kintar be among the freed hostages. The ‘Israelis' rejected the principle of freeing Palestinian and Arab hostages.

Negotiations went on for a year and there was no improvement. Both sides held on to their principles. But in the last few months some suggestions were made and certain so-called humanitarian initiatives were launched where the hostage Hassan Akil, a civilian from the July war from the Jibbein village, was freed. The second was the return of the bodies of two resistance fighters in exchange for the body of an ‘Israeli' settler that was washed ashore to us at the time. The latest breakthrough before the final agreement was the issue of the release of Nassim Nisr in return for handing over the remains of ‘Israeli' soldiers.

A short while ago the issue of Samir Kintar was not concluded due to many excuses related by the ‘Istraeli' media. Then came the approval for the swap to include all five Lebanese hostages. When the topic came to Yehya Skaff, the enemy insists that he dies in the Dalal Moghrabi operation. We asked for his body. They refused to hand over his body. The martyrs in the Dalal Moghrabi group are five and will be returned, their DNA tested, and it will determine their identities.

The enemy agreed to the Martyrs of the Truthful Pledge and the handover of all remains before and after 1982, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Arabs. The estimated number is 199, nearly 200. They have started to dig up the graves.

The significance is huge to the families of martyrs who know after years when the remains of one's brother or father what the issue means in humanitarian and emotional terms. To many families that is not less important than regaining them alive.

One of the most important measures for those martyrs is that they have real graves with real names written in letters of light, and not unknown numbers.

There remains the issue of Mohammad Farran, the fisherman who was lost at sea and whose boat was found with bloodstains. We naturally assumed he was with the ‘Israelis' and they are responsible for him. The report on missing persons that will be delivered the day of the exchange will determine the fate of brother Mohammad.

God willing, we will be able to determine the fate of many missing persons, if not all. On the Lebanese side, the whole mission is accomplished...all hostages, remains, and whatever was possible on missing persons.

On the Iranian issue, there is nothing new. The German mediator will receive a final report from the ‘Israelis' on their fate. In the past few days we have given him our report on the missing ‘Israeli' pilot Ron Arad. In the coming days a mediator will come and receive a serious large written report on Ron Arad.

In 2004 we were working in two directions: revealing the fate of Ron Arad, and preparing for a hostage operation. We did field investigations with persons and took statements and worked on the issue from start to finish. We came to a deduction based on inferences. We will deliver this report to the mediator along with whatever has been reached to the international mediator. It remains his right to announce it or pass it around.

As for the end part of the negotiations, after resolving the obstacle of freeing brother Samir Kintar, what remained was the challenging hurdle in the negotiation of releasing Palestinian and Arab prisoners.

I cannot divulge everything now, but I will leave some points to cover on reception day.

The enemy used to say 'anything we (the 'Israelis') give to Hizbullah that is part of the Palestinian issue, will create a problem, at a time when we (the 'Israelis') are holding negotiations concerning Gilad Shalit with Hamas and political negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas.'

We did not link the negotiations between prisoners held by us and the prisoner held by the brothers in Hamas in Gaza.

They are two different paths, and since combining them could complicate matters, we kept them separate from day one.

The enemy saw that it had a problem with "the Arabs". Because it has a peace agreement with Jordan, it was unable to release Jordanian POW's over to us, and the same with Syria, because it has the Golan issue and ongoing negotiations there.

Additionally, the enemy does not want to consolidate Hizbullah as chief negotiator on behalf of all Arabs, for they used to say "if we do that, we will have appointed Hassan Nasrallah as King of the Arab world", when I want to be nothing more than a servant of this cause.

From our perspective, and from that of the Palestinians, the release of Palestinian detainees is symbolic and marks great importance from the angle of our common cause and struggle.

We agreed, then, that I would send a letter to the UN Secretary General discussing the 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners, insisting in particular on the release of imprisoned women in children. Something will be issued in this regard by the UN Secretary General and the Government of the enemy as well.

The United Nations Secretary-General undertook a commitment to invest special efforts regarding the Syrian and Jordanian POW's.

Furthermore, the most important achievement everyone talked about is the subject of Samir Kintar, with all the indications it represents.

We accepted this agreement, which we consider a major achievement in the least; therefore, I hereby officially announce the declared agreement acceptable by us, finalized, and its technicalities agreed on by our team of negotiators in recent weeks with the German mediator. What remains is a timetable that is to be completely specified and announced within the next two days.

There is a prevailing ‎belief that this process will take place before or after July 15. Although we wish it to be complete soon, I do not want to set a day, because should we attempt to set a date, 'Israel' will fight to counter that, but I expect it will happen in a week or two, due to the 'Israeli' legal and judicial considerations to be taken in Samir Kantar's release.

There is no need for concern, since despite all that was raised within the 'Israeli' entity, a final decision has been reached there, and matters are seem to be winding up.

On this occasion, I have three concluding points:

1. First, I congratulate all the Lebanese on this victory... I hope that they consider this achievement and victory theirs. Just as we did in July of 2000 we do again now, refuse to use this victory for internal gain, as this is part of our culture... No one should feel defeated, or feel this is a message to them. I hope the Lebanese appreciate the importance of this achievement, for once accomplished, Lebanon will be the first Arab country in the 'Israeli'-Arab conflict to close its detainee dossier.

No Lebanese prisoners or bodies will remain outside the homeland. It is not a problem if some view this as a way by the enemy to remove pretexts, what concerns me is the result, and the humanitarian reality, which we will witness in the eyes of the martyrs' parents. This is a major achievement after the complete liberation of the lands with the exception of Shibaa Farms and Kafr Shouba hills. This victory is for every resistance movement and every noble and free person in the Arab world.

2. With the convoys of martyrs returning to Lebanon, I say to all the Lebanese, Palestinians and all political parties that during the funerals in different regions, our national and ‎ethical responsibility are to remember and preserve what these martyrs sacrificed their lives for.

This event is to be a national unifying event, an opportunity for the Lebanese to come together ‎again. Remembering this national struggle and resistance history will provide an opportunity to achieve this goal.

On the personal level, I, together with Hizbullah leadership announce absolute openness to any political meeting ‎under any title and in any context, if it helps in uniting Lebanon, preserving civil peace ‎and overcoming the previous phase in Lebanon. I invite all the Lebanese to celebrate this occasion in a real festivity that unites us all.

3. I stress on all participating political forces to consider this a national event, to distance themselves from any provocations, and to benefit from this occasion by bridging the gap among the Lebanese, by observing a civilized reception.

What remains is one detail of which I want to speak firmly and it is the celebratory gunfire.

I say this is a very dangerous, very painful and disastrous matter. I call on all those who participate in this or in any of the coming celebrations-because as I have promised you the age of defeatism is gone making way for the age of victories- that anyone who fires a gun in celebration is firing that gun at me, at my head and at my heart. They would be firing at the resistance, at its martyrs and its civilized achievement ... So all those who truly love and appreciate the resistance must know this.

Necessary measures will be taken to ensure public cooperation in this matter. I invite every building to form a committee to prevent any shooting, which serves the enemy, since it amounts to shooting at the resistance for which you, all the Lebanese people and us invested tremendous sacrifices to bring about these achievements that lie before our eyes now.