Saturday, May 09, 2009

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative, During Security Council Consultations on Lebanon and Resolution 1559, May 7, 2009

Thank you, Mr. President. Let me also thank the Secretary-General for his report and Mr. Larsen for his briefing this morning.

Our discussion today of Security Council Resolution 1559 occurs one year to the day since a strike engineered by Hizballah erupted into violence and resulted in Hizballah's takeover of West Beirut—a show of force that only underscores the need to fully implement Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701.

The events a year ago today speak eloquently to the ongoing dangers that armed militias pose to Lebanon's liberty and independence. Before, during and after the 2005 Cedar Revolution, we have all witnessed the Lebanese people's determination to live in a free, sovereign, and independent state.

Lebanon and Syria should be commended for taking significant steps towards establishing normal relations. When the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon arrives in Beirut, the two countries' exchange of ambassadors will be complete—that is a noteworthy achievement.

Activating the joint border commission will be another step forward. We hope that Syria will soon name its delegates to this body so that both nations can begin meaningful efforts to delineate their porous common border, as called for in Resolution 1680.

Doing so is a crucial component of the broader effort to stem cross-border smuggling and end what the Secretary-General calls the "continuing potential for breaches of the arms embargo." Such breaches make it easier for Hizballah to rearm. They also make it easier to get dangerous weapons to such militias as the PFLP-GC—which, as the Secretary General's report notes, allegedly fired rockets at Israel from Lebanon during the recent Gaza conflict.

Given this progress in key areas, it may be tempting to think that Resolution 1559 is coming toward the end of its usefulness. This would be a grave mistake.

The Secretary-General's report does suggest a thaw in diplomatic tensions between Syria and Lebanon and some welcome improvement in Lebanon's political and security situation. But it also finds "no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, as called for by the Taif Agreement and Resolution 1559."

Indeed, Hizballah has now admitted supporting militants in Egypt and exhorting the Egyptian military to defy its political leaders. These actions are further reminders that Hizballah is a threat not only to Lebanon but to the region at large. And so we join the Secretary-General in condemning Hizballah's "unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state."

Mr. President, the United States strongly believes that the people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections—without the specter of violence, the intimidation of militias, and the pressure of outside influence. As the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, noted recently in Beirut, the Lebanese "have a right to [their] own future."

This Council has made it clear—in successive Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701—that the only legitimate armed forces in Lebanon are those of the Lebanese government. The United States continues to support Lebanon's legitimate state institutions, including providing the Lebanese Armed Forces with the training and equipment they need to protect Lebanon and its citizens and implement the resolutions of this Council.

And so we join with the Secretary-General in calling upon Hizballah to disarm and to transform itself into a purely political party. We also call on all other militant groups in Lebanon to disarm. Let me be clear: we see no distinction between these groups' so-called political and military wings. Nor will we engage with them until they completely disarm—whatever their involvement in the Lebanese government.

Similarly, the United States calls for the state sponsors of these armed groups to end their support. We are particularly disturbed by the PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifada militias' presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border—some sections of which, as the Secretary-General has noted, fall under their illegal de facto control.

Mr. President, the United States has begun to pursue a course of principled, increased engagement in the region. But the United States will not sacrifice Lebanon's sovereignty, liberty, or independence on the altar of improved U.S. relations with one of Lebanon's neighbors. The United States will never sanction any deal at the expense of a free, sovereign, and independent Lebanon. We will never make any deal that sells out Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

This includes the important work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is a critical and non-negotiable part of the process of ending the era of impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon.

We will continue to call for the full implementation of Resolutions 1559 and 1680 until all directives of both resolutions are met and until the political independence and sovereignty of Lebanon are guaranteed. Finally, we will continue to support voices of peace and moderation. And we will continue to hope that Lebanon will move further along the path of peace and prosperity that all of its sovereign people deserve to walk.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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