6008th Meeting (AM)
Special Envoy Reports on Progress, Says Continuing Need for Parties To Halt Violence, Commit to Peaceful Settlement of Political Disputes
Recent "major strides" on the political front in Lebanon could lead to a stable Government with a monopoly on the use of force throughout its territory, Terje Roed-Larsen, Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 (2004) told the Security Council this morning.
Speaking of developments in the last six months, he added: "Achieving meaningful progress in this regard is not only urgent, but is also possible, should all sides continue to adhere by their commitments to refrain from violence to settle political differences and commit themselves to a Lebanese political process that safeguards the country's sovereignty, stability and Constitution."
In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Roed-Larsen recalled that the main objective of the 2004 resolution was, indeed, to re-establish such national sovereignty through the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country and the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, which was a reflection of the Taif Agreement of 1989 to which all the political parties had agreed in 1989, and which led to the disarming of all militias apart from Hizbullah. The parties had recommitted themselves to the Taif Agreement in Doha in May 2008.
The most significant progress during the past half year towards implementation of the resolution, he said, was compliance with Lebanese constitutional rules for a free and fair presidential election, which had, he maintained, revived the constitutional political process in Lebanon. That process included the convening of Parliament, which had been paralysed for almost two years. On 30 September, the Parliament had adopted a new electoral law based on the Doha agreement, which paved the way for parliamentary elections next year.
He noted that, on 14 August, the Lebanese and Syrian Presidents had concluded talks in Damascus with an agreement to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. That had led to the signing of a Memorandum by the two countries' Foreign Ministers on 15 October announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations effective that same day, and affirming their determination to reinforce and consolidate their relations on the basis of mutual respect for their sovereignty and independence. He looked forward to close adherence to that understanding and the opening of embassies in Beirut and Damascus by the end of this year.
The Secretary-General, he said, had maintained his efforts to achieve the full delineation of the border between Lebanon and Syria, but there had not been significant progress on that front, other than statements of intentions to make progress. He remained concerned over the vulnerability of the border, which was reflected in the permanent presence of paramilitary infrastructures belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifadah which straddled the border. A number of Member States had expressed growing concern over the flow of weapons and fighters. At the conclusion of their August summit, both Syria and Lebanon had agreed to take joint action to improve border security and halt smuggling operations.
Over the reporting period, he said, Israeli aircraft had continued to violate Lebanese airspace, and he had regularly called on that country to cease them. Israel also continued to occupy the northern part of Ghajar, which he called a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was actively working with armed forces of Lebanon and Israel to try to resolve the problem. The Secretary-General was concerned, however, over the escalation of threats, through the media, between Israel and Hizbullah, and had urged all parties to cease that kind of public discourse, which created anxiety among civilian populations on both sides.
Unfortunately, during the reporting period there had been no tangible progress towards disbanding and disarming of militias as called for in the Taif Agreement and resolution 1559, he said. The most significant militia was the armed component of Hizbullah, which, in May, had used civil disobedience as well as military assets in response to a political decision by the Government. The Secretary-General called on Hizbullah to comply with all Council resolutions and urged all States with close ties with it, in particular Syria and Iran, to support its transformation into "a political party proper". The Secretary-General was gravely concerned that the continued presence of groups with paramilitary capacities would threaten the holding of parliamentary elections next year.
He said he was pleased to report that, as part of the Doha agreement, the Lebanese leaders had committed themselves to prohibit the use of violence in any internal conflict that might arise. That, and the ensuing national dialogue under the leadership of President Michel Suleiman, had provided Lebanon's leaders with a new opportunity to recommit themselves to strengthening the sovereignty of the State and the authority of the Lebanese Government throughout its territory. The Secretary-General welcomed the first session of that dialogue, which had addressed the question of a national defence strategy. He also welcomed attempts by Lebanese leaders to normalize their relations, and called on them to fully engage in a spirit of genuine cooperation to consolidate stability and sovereignty. That process would also require the constructive engagement of States in the region.
The Secretary-General was gravely concerned, however, by the emergence and apparent strengthening of extremist elements and foreign fighters based largely in and around Tripoli, he said, which was but another challenge to the Government's authority and highlighted the proliferation of weapons and armed groups that continued to operate in Lebanon in violation of resolution 1559 (2004). There had also been no progress in the disarming of Palestinian militias. Of particular concern was the emerging pattern of lethal attacks against the Lebanese Armed Forces. In that regard, he noted the "assertive action" and arrests that the Lebanese security forces had taken of late.
Following Mr. Roed-Larsen's briefing, the Council went into closed consultations on the topic, as previously agreed.
The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 10:45 a.m.
For its meeting this morning, the Council had before it the eighth semi-annual report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) (document S/2008/654), which notes progress and setbacks in Lebanon's quest for stability and political independence. The Secretary-General calls the election of President Michel Suleiman on 25 May a significant step forward in that effort, despite noting that the May political violence "represented one of the greatest threats to the very foundations of the Lebanese State in recent years". It is important, he says, that the parties continue to implement the full accord reached in Doha, including its commitment to refrain from the use of weapons to settle disputes.
In that light, the Secretary-General welcomes the first session of the "national dialogue" on 16 September, which addressed the question of national defence strategy and the status of armed groups. Great challenges lie ahead, he cautions, maintaining that all Lebanese parties must fully engage in the dialogue in a spirit of cooperation in the interest of meaningful progress. He looks forward to the next session scheduled for 5 November.
The Secretary-General adds, however, his continuing concern over assassinations and other attacks condemning them and noting what appears to be an emerging pattern of attacks against the Lebanese Armed Forces. He calls on Lebanese authorities to bring to justice all perpetrators of those crimes. He points out that the proliferation of armed groups is an ongoing violation of resolution 1559. He says that Hizbullah's maintenance of its own military assets, in particular, is a fundamental challenge to the sovereignty of the State. The disbanding of all militias, he reiterates, should take place through inclusive dialogue, but should ultimately confirm the sole political and military authority of the Government. The process will require the support of Lebanon's neighbours.
In the report, the Secretary-General also says he is encouraged by the Syrian-Lebanese summit held in August, and looks forward to the opening of respective embassies in Beirut and Damascus by the end of the year. It is equally important, however, that both countries work on measures on border delineation, security, missing people, bilateral relations, economic cooperation and all other matters agreed upon in Damascus. Praising regional efforts to promote reconciliation in Lebanon itself, he says that the Doha accord represented a framework for stability and security, but warns that it is threatened by a combination of mistrust, competition and militias. He concludes with a pledge to work for the full implementation of all Council resolutions that have as their object the full sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.
For information media - not an official record