Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lebanon: UN calls for continued dialogue ahead of municipal elections

23 March 2010 – Municipal elections planned for Lebanon later this year must be free and fair, a senior United Nations official said today as he urged the country’s political leaders to continue to pursue dialogue to ensure that tensions are eased ahead of the polls.

Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, spoke to reporters in Beirut after meeting Prime Minister Saad Hariri to brief him on recent developments, particularly the Security Council briefing on Lebanon earlier this month.

He noted that the Lebanese Parliament is discussing draft reforms for the municipal elections – including races for local council members and town and village leaders – that are scheduled to take place later this year.

“Whatever the Lebanese decide in this regard, we hope that the elections will take place in a free, fair and democratic atmosphere,” Mr. Williams said. “I welcome particularly the recent meeting of the National Dialogue [a political reconciliation process] and the reaffirmation of the commitment of Lebanese leaders to stability and calm rhetoric as municipal elections draw near.”

Responding to questions from journalists, the Special Coordinator also called on all sides to do more to fully implement the Security Council resolution from 2006 that ended that year’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rise in strident rhetoric in Israel and Lebanon concerns Secretary-General

11 March 2010 – More than three years after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a complete halt to fighting between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah, the situation in the region remains fragile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, which also raises concerns over increasingly bellicose rhetoric warning of renewed fighting.
Resolution 1701, adopted by the Council in August 2006, called for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah, respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling.
plementation, Mr. Ban writes that he is “pleased” by the parties’ continued commitment to the resolution. “The continued respect of the cessation of hostilities by Israel and Lebanon has provided for the most stable period in the relationship between the two countries for decades.”
But he warns that the fragility of the situation is exacerbated by ever more strident rhetoric, “which raises tensions and should be avoided,” as well as being in contravention of the spirit of the resolution.
The foundation for a permanent ceasefire has been laid by the new strategic environment and the relative stability in southern Lebanon, which the UN peacekeeping operation in the country (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces help establish, the new report notes.
But the opportunity created by UNIFIL’s presence cannot be maintained indefinitely, it warns. “It is the responsibility of the parties to focus on all outstanding issues in order to reach a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution as envisaged” in the resolution.
Mr. Ban expresses his concern over Israel’s continued occupation of the north part of the village of Ghajar, north of the Blue Line, although it should have withdrawn in compliance with resolution 1701.
He also notes that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) “continue to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty” and the resolution almost daily through overflights of Lebanese territory, creating “a tense situation” and the possibility of an incident which could escalate.
A further violation of the resolution was revealed when UNIFIL discovered weapons in its area of operations, he says. The UN regularly receives reports that Hizbollah has re-established its arsenal and military capabilities, both inside and outside UNIFIL’s area of operations.
The report also finds that the presence of armed groups in Lebanon, operating outside the State’s control, challenges its ability to exercise its full sovereignty and control over its territory in accordance with resolution 1701.
“As I have stated before, I believe that the disarmament of armed groups should be carried out through a Lebanese-led political process,” the Secretary-General says, calling on the Lebanese President to reconvene the National Dialogue to reach consensus on the national defence strategy.
“The situation prevailing between Lebanon and Israel, which is of the utmost relevance to the implementation” of the resolution, “is inevitably affected by regional dynamics,” especially the paucity of progress on the Middle East peace process.
Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams will brief the Security Council tomorrow on Mr. Ban’s report.

Friday, March 05, 2010

President Cassese submits Annual Report on first anniversary of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Leidschendam, Today 1 March 2010, pursuant to Article 10(2) of the Statute, the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Antonio Cassese submitted the first Tribunal's Annual Report to the UN Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon. The Annual Report aims to illustrate the steps taken, the achievements made a well as the hurdles encountered during the STL's first year (March 2009-February 2010). Subject to the consent of the Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon, the Annual Report will be made public in due course.

In commenting on the first anniversary of the Tribunal, President Cassese stated “The aims of the Tribunal are to render justice, to provide truth and peace of mind for the victims as well as to contribute to reconciliation within Lebanese society. The Tribunal further intends to strengthen the culture of accountability. We aim at dispensing justice impartially, fairly and free from any political or ideological bias, in full respect for the rights of defendants and victims.” The President stressed that the STL is aware of the challenges it has to face. But the Tribunal - he added - is prepared to meet these challenges and successfully complete its mandate.