Tuesday, December 28, 2010


New York, Dec 28 2010 Lebanese President Michel Sleiman today reaffirmed his country’s “consensus” support for the United Nations peacekeeping operation that was strengthened in 2006 as part of the agreement that ended fighting between Israel and Hizbollah. On a visit to UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters at Naqoura in southern Lebanon, he was briefed by Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, who underscored the importance of the ongoing coordinated operations between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.
Maj.-Gen. Asarta stressed that UNIFIL will continue working in pursuit of the common shared mandate for peace and security in southern Lebanon, calling the presidential visit “a demonstration of Lebanon’s support and commitment… to our strategic partnership. “The achievements reached so far are testament to the excellent relations and cooperation that exist between the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL,” he added. Mr. Sleiman was accompanied by Lebanese Army Commander General Jean Kahwagi and other senior officers.
Originally created by the Security Council in March 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, UNIFIL was reinforced after the July-August 2006 fighting, with the added mandate to monitor the cessation of hostilities; accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the south of Lebanon; and extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Williams to NNA Reporter: Israel's Intended Withdrawal from Ghajar Implies No Full Implementation of 1701.

19/12/10 Written by Rihab Abu Hosn Translated by George Geadah

Israeli offer to withdraw from the occupied northern tip of al-Ghajar came to a head many times during recent years, albeit the offer failed to materialize against the backdrop of continued Lebanese political crises. Just to note, Israel decided to withdraw from al-Ghajar in line with UN Resolution 1701 such that the evacuated part of the village be placed under UN jurisdiction.

Israel's decision to pullout from Ghajar raised a number of questions regarding pre-conditions put forth by the Israeli government as to whether anti-occupation Resistance needs to be disarmed or not. Other questions included the future legal status of the village people in view of their questionable status as Israeli citizens living under Lebanese law.

As for the Lebanese position, the government of Lebanon does not as yet regard Israel's withdrawal as being complete even though village is placed under UNIFIL control.

To quote the Lebanese cabinet: The Lebanese army does not as yet control the Lebanese part of the village which means that 1701 has not been implemented yet. This corroborates with what Williams had to say.

Special UN Representative to Ban ki Moon and, in an exclusive interview accorded to the NNA reporter Rihab Abul Husn, confirmed that the Israeli pullback is a mere step forward not to be confused with full withdrawal.

The cabinet also confirmed that despite Israel's decision to withdraw, their remains Israeli occupation of certain Lebanese lands let alone the continuation of areal violations of Lebanese airspace. With regards to Israeli withdrawal mechanisms, Williams noted via video conference link that certain details need to be worked out yet between Israel and Lebanon.

He confirmed that the intended Israeli pullback from Ghajar constituted in itself an important step forward. However, it was not sufficient enough to enable Lebanon to exercise its sovereignty over the northernmost tip of the village.

On his horizons' inspection tour with various Lebanese leaders, Williams and UNIFIL Commander, General Assarta, noted that all three Presidents, Sleiman, Berri and Hariri welcomed the intended withdrawal coupled with their regret that the Lebanese army could not deploy in the area.

With respect to the Israeli withdrawal plan itself, Williams noted that initial military pullback would be backed up by phased talks to in order to achieve the remaining modalities of the intended withdrawal.

On the purpose of Israel's withdrawal, accompanied by an international call, for a final withdrawal from Lebanon and the need to stop any acts of belligerency against it out of Lebanese territory, Williams underscored major changes characterizing the new situation to the effect that Israeli soldiers would not be present there. However, in as far as the socio-economic status of the local population is concerned, Williams indicated that the issue of villagers holding Israeli passports needs to be addressed. Therefore, this major humanitarian issue must be resolved as Hassan Nasrallah himself clearly alluded to in one of his speeches.

With respect to the intended pullout date, Williams said it would materialize within a few weeks. He confirmed that UNIFIL would take care of socio-economic needs of the northernmost tip of Ghajar.

He disclosed that up to 1400 people live in the part of Ghajar to be evacuated by Israel and that details surrounding their status would be finalized during subsequent negotiations.

Williams added that UN remains in close contact with the Lebanese Prime minister's office with UNIFIL and Lebanese army regulars constantly in touch over the post-Israeli withdrawal stage.

He indicated that actual proposals to place northern Ghajar under UN control are basically different from those of 2009 especially that Israeli pullout has been already decided.

For the initial stage, he added, UNIFIL would remain in control of the situation with Lebanese army being kept abreast of developments as they unfold. Williams however, refused to disclose deadlines concerning UNIFIL/Lebanese army discussions. He attributed the failure to work out details to Middle Eastern intricacies.

On the current Lebanese juncture, Williams acknowledged the complexity of the situation but spoke favorably about neighborly efforts by Syria and Saudi Arabia to come up with constructive proposals. He however spoke about need for mutual compromises with no particular group seeking to hold monopoly over Lebanon's public affairs.

Concerning actual Israel withdrawal steps, Williams said UNIFIL contingents and a unit from the Lebanese army would stand by at the northernmost entrance to al-Ghajar pending the completion of Israeli withdrawal. Later negotiations however, would decide on the scope of Israel's redeployment either within Lebanon or within the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The final stage would witness Lebanese army units taking control of the northernmost part of al-Ghajar.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lebanon: UN envoy meets with Hizbollah official on domestic and security issues.

13 December 2010 – Continuing efforts to ease tensions in Lebanon, a senior United Nations official today held wide-ranging talks with the international relations chief of Hizbollah.
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams’ meeting with Ammar Moussawi followed several last week with Lebanese officials, after which he reiterated his concern over the crisis that has put on hold the work of key national institutions and called once again for dialogue to resolve existing tensions.

“We spoke first of all about Security Council Resolution 1701 and agreed that stability has been restored in south Lebanon and along the Blue Line,” he said after today’s talks, referring to the resolution which ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

He briefed Mr. Moussawi on the possibility of an Israeli military withdrawal from the northern part of Ghajar, a village that straddles the so-called Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon, stressing that this would not mean that Israel had met all its obligations under resolution 1701.

The UN has frequently condemned Israeli over-flights of Lebanese territory in breach of the resolution, which also calls for the disarming of all Lebanese groups outside the regular army. In his reports on the country, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted that Hizbollah has maintained its armed capacity.

In his most recent report last month, he voiced concern at the “marked rise” in political tensions and recent challenges to State authority by Hizbollah and some of its allies, noting the “widespread proliferation” of weapons and continued presence of armed groups operating outside the control of the State in violation of resolution 1701.

Mr. Williams said the two men discussed the domestic situation and he voiced the hope that Wednesday’s cabinet meeting “will be able to make progress even on the most difficult questions that are before it.”

He added that one element of reassurance for Lebanon “is that it is never alone and that the efforts of many of its friends, especially Syria and Saudi Arabia, are aimed at trying to help it reach a solution.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Herman von Hebel appointed Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Leidschendam, 10 December 2010: The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has appointed Herman von Hebel to the post of Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Mr von Hebel, is a Dutch national with decades of experience in international law at three tribunals including the STL, as well as for the Government of the Netherlands.

“My appointment comes at a very important time for the STL”, said Herman von Hebel. “The tribunal is moving from a predominantly investigative phase towards judicial proceedings, and during this period the Registry will be critical to ensure the smooth running of the court.”

The Registrar is in effect the Chief Executive of the tribunal and is responsible for all aspects of its administration including the budget, fundraising, relations with states and court management. Mr von Hebel’s extensive brief also includes oversight of the victim participation unit, witness protection and detention facilities.

His appointment has been warmly welcomed by the other principals of the STL. "Herman von Hebel has served international criminal justice for many years with competence and independence”, said the President of the Court, Judge Antonio Cassese. “I am sure that in his position he will continue to show great professionalism and integrity.”

Mr von Hebel was previously the acting Registrar for the STL, the Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and a senior legal officer for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He was also instrumental in the negotiations of the Rome Statute, which led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

“Mr von Hebel's appointment comes as a well-deserved recognition of his efforts to consolidate the work of the Tribunal since its very early days”, said the Prosecutor Daniel A. Bellemare. “I am confident that our shared experience and commitment will be most valuable to further advance the Tribunal’s challenging mission.”

Those sentiments were shared by the Head of the STL’s Defence Office, M. Francois Roux. “It is a good thing for our Tribunal”, said M. Roux. “I am happy to be able to continue working together with him to ensure that the STL remains a model of impartial and fair justice in which the Defence is able to wholly fulfill its mandate.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was created by the United Nations Security Council, at the request of the Government of Lebanon in 2007. The STL started its work on March 1st 2009 and there are currently 333 members of staff from 62 countries.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

UN envoy calls again for dialogue to resolve tensions in Lebanon

7 December 2010 – The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon today reiterated his concern over the crisis that has put on hold the work of key national institutions, and called once again for dialogue to resolve existing tensions.
“We continue to believe that all problems, no matter how sensitive, have to be resolved through dialogue and with all sides relying on the state institutions,” Michael Williams said in a statement in Beirut.

His comments followed a meeting with the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, during which he was accompanied by General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The situation in Lebanon has been marked by rising tensions in recent months and described by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a “domestic climate of uncertainty and fragility” in a report issued in October.

“The country’s political leaders must focus on strengthening its sovereignty and independence as well as its institutions,” Mr. Ban stated in that report.

Mr. Williams and Gen. Asarta also informed Mr. Berri about their joint visit last week to Israel to discuss the issue of a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the northern part of Ghajar, a village that straddles the so-called Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon.

Last month Israel announced its decision, in principle, to withdraw its army – the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – from the area, which Mr. Ban welcomed as an important step towards the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which brought to an end the 2006 conflict between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah.

“We believe this is an important development,” said Mr. Williams. “At the same time, as we explained to Speaker Berri today, the withdrawal of the IDF from northern Ghajar is but a first step towards resolving the status of Ghajar so that Lebanese sovereignty is fully restored over all Lebanese territory and that also the humanitarian requirements of the villagers are met.”

Mr. Williams added that he and Gen. Asarta are planning to meet later this week with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Sleiman.