The Middle East problem and the details of an international force to be sent to Lebanon will be taken up at a key conference in Rome this Wednesday, after which Turkey's stance on whether to lead or to join the force is expected to be clearer.
Italy and United States are both taking the lead in the foreign minister-level meeting that will bring scores of dignitaries to Rome in order to focus on reaching an agreement on the political underpinnings of a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. "There are three key topics of the meeting that will be hosted by Italy: Humanitarian aid, possible deployment of an international force to Lebanon and, of course, an Israeli-Lebanese ceasefire." Italian Ambassador to Turkey Carlo Marsili told The New Anatolian on Sunday.
A final declaration is expected to be made at the end of the half-day conference Wednesday at the Italian Foreign Ministry, he added. The declaration may clarify the fog over the modalities of the possible peace force, whose planning is in the early stages. According to an article published in the Washington Post, officials said they anticipate it would include some 10,000 to 20,000 troops led by a contingent from France or Turkey. In addition to Turkey and France, nations that might send military units include Italy, Brazil, Pakistan, India, and Germany, officials in Washington and at the UN said, according to the newspaper. In a departure from past peacekeeping missions to Lebanon, the force currently being discussed would not include U.S. troops, U.S. officials told the newspaper, citing their country's heavy presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Turkey is following a wait-and-see approach towards discussions on whether the country will lead an international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, while France has expressed its intention to lead the force.
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