Special Envoy Says 7 June Parliamentary Elections New Milestone;
Warns Threat Posed by Armed Militias to Sovereignty 'Cannot Be Overstated'
One year ago, exactly, Lebanon had been taken "to the brink of civil war and back", Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council today, but, since then, thanks to an agreement between Lebanese political leaders brokered by the Emir of Qatar, the country's domestic, political and security situation "has improved markedly".
Mr. Roed-Larsen, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), said the violence that had erupted on 7 May 2008 had been one of the "greatest threats to the very foundations of the Lebanese State". Fortunately, the commitments made in the 21 May 2008 Doha agreement had either been implemented or meaningfully acted upon. Political divisions had not led to paralysis. The President had worked tirelessly to forge national unity. The general improvement of the situation in the country had created a favourable environment for strengthened sovereignty, political independence and Government control throughout the country.
The 7 June parliamentary elections would constitute a milestone in Lebanon's momentous transition since the adoption of resolution 1559 (2004), he said. The parties must continue to adhere to the Doha Accord, including the commitment to refrain from using weapons to settle internal political disputes.
Reporting on further strides towards the full implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), he said Syria and Lebanon had nearly completed the process leading to full diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Secretary-General had maintained his efforts to encourage Syria and Lebanon to achieve the full delineation of their common border. Lebanese members had been named to the Lebanese-Syrian border committee. The United Nations was looking forward to the appointment by Syria of its delegates to the commitments. The Secretary-General welcomed the renewed commitment by the Government of Syria to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon.
He said diplomatic efforts regarding the issue of the Shab'a Farms had continued. Israel still occupied the northern part of Ghajar in violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and relevant Council resolutions. Intrusions into Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft continued in high numbers. Over the last few weeks, the Lebanese authorities had arrested a series of individuals on suspicion of spying for Israel. If those allegations proved to be true, they would constitute a serious violation of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Over the reporting period, he continued, there had been no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. "The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese State cannot be overstated, as events in May 2008 have demonstrated", he said. The disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias was vital for the complete consolidation of Lebanon as a sovereign and democratic State. The threats posed by the militias and armed groups created an atmosphere of intimidation in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections and undermined the stability of the region. The disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should occur through an inclusive political dialogue that addressed the political interests of all Lebanese people
He said there were alarming reports of a large number of arms in Lebanon. Hizbullah's leadership had continued to assert that it had acquired more sophisticated military technology. The United Nations did not have the means to independently verify those reports, but remained concerned by the porous nature of Lebanon's border with Syria and the continuing potential for breaches of the arms embargo. The Government of Syria had denied any involvement in any illegal transfer of weapons across its border with Lebanon.
He was also concerned by security incidents in and around Palestinian camps, some of which provided safe haven for those who sought to escape the authority of the State. Security coordination and cooperation between Lebanese security agencies and the Palestinian faction had improved and should be further encouraged. The issue of Palestinian arms outside the 12 official refugee camps had been discussed again within the National Dialogue, which had been established to develop a national defence strategy.
He said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah Al-Intifada maintained illegal military installations along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Although in 2006 it had been agreed in the National Dialogue that those Palestinian armed positions had to be dismantled within six months, no progress had been made. Since those two groups were both headquartered in Damascus, cooperation between the Governments of Syria and Lebanon would be important to address that matter in the best interest of regional stability.
Hizbullah continued to maintain a significant paramilitary capacity and infrastructure separate from the State, he said, something which directly challenged the Lebanese State's sovereignty and threatened regional stability. Over the last few weeks, there had been growing concern that Hizbullah had engaged in clandestine and illegal militant activities beyond Lebanese territory. On 8 April, Egypt's General Prosecutor announced that 49 people had been arrested for allegedly being part of a cell assigned by Hizbullah "to plan and carry out hostile operations on Egyptian soil". Mr. Roed-Larsen said that on 26 April he had met with Egypt's President and Foreign Minister, who shared with him preliminary elements of the investigation into the cell.
In a recent correspondence, Egypt's Government told the Secretary-General that, in 2008, a cell led by a Lebanese member of Hizbullah was uncovered, he said. In a televised speech on 29 April, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, Sayed Hassen Nasrallah, rejected the Egyptian authorities' accusations. The Secretary-General had expressed concern over the Hizbullah leaders' statements and had condemned such unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a Member State. Equally alarming was the fact that Hizbullah had publicly admitted to providing support to Gaza-based militants from Egyptian territory.
Mr. Roed-Larsen reiterated that Hizbullah should cease any militant activities outside of Lebanon and complete its transformation into solely a Lebanese party. Regional parties, particularly those with close ties to Hizbullah, must encourage Hizbullah to move in that direction. The National Dialogue had made some progress, but its overall gains had been limited. All Lebanese leaders must approach the dialogue process in a spirit of cooperation and make every effort to achieve a positive, concrete outcome that would formalize the Government's monopoly over the use of force within Lebanon's boundaries and achieve progress in disarming all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
He called on all parties inside and outside of Lebanon to halt immediately all efforts to transfer and acquire weapons and to build paramilitary capacities outside State authority. As the Lebanese Armed Forces lacked adequate military equipment to meet their obligations under relevant Council resolutions, he called on donor countries to continue to help the Forces improve logistical and operational capabilities. He expressed concern over the occasional security incidents during the reporting period, some of which had led to casualties. Such incidents highlighted the proliferation of weapons and armed groups operating in Lebanon.
When the Council met, it had before it the ninth semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) (document S/2009/218).
The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:35 a.m.
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