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.