Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UN coordinator for Lebanon stresses government formation crucial for stability

29 March 2011 – The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, today called for a quick formation of a new government, saying that doing so is essential for both the security and development priorities of the people of the Middle Eastern country.
Lebanon’s Government, led by Saad Hariri, collapsed in January after 11 Hizbollah and allied ministers resigned, reportedly over its refusal to cease cooperation with the UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father Rafiq and 22 other people.

“I told the Council this morning that we look forward to the early formation of a Government which will help address the priorities of the Lebanese people both in terms of political and security stability, but also in terms of their social and economic requirements,” Mr. Williams told reporters at UN Headquarters after a briefing the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Lebanon.

He said he had made it clear to Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati and other leaders that the UN expectation is that the new government, when formed, will continue to respect its international obligations and especially Security Council resolution 1701, the terms of which ended the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah.

“I have been reassured by the statements from Najib Mikati and from others that that will indeed be the case,” said Mr. Williams.

He said the cessation of hostilities continues to hold on the so-called “Blue Line” between Israel and Lebanon and voiced confidence that that will remain the case.

Mr. Williams also expressed his satisfaction that the tripartite mechanism which brings together the Israeli and the Lebanese armies and is chaired by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has continued its work.

“We need to see more progress towards the full implementation of resolution 1701,” Mr. Williams said, calling for an end to Israel’s “almost daily” violation of Lebanese airspace and for Israel’s withdrawal from the northern part of the Lebanese village of Ghajar.

“I also told the Council this morning that inevitably the deepening political polarisation in Lebanon has affected the implementation of resolution 1701.

“I expressed my regrets for example that the national dialogue has been in abeyance for some time now and has not met since early November 2010,” said Mr. Williams, stressing that the dialogue should resume after the formation of the new government to continue playing its role in addressing differences and tensions, including developing a national defence strategy that would deal with the issue of arms outside the control of the State.

He expressed his hope that the new government once formed would reinvigorate its engagement to improve the management and control of the country’s borders.

Mr. Williams also called fro the release of seven Estonian cyclists who were abducted by unknown people in the Bekaa Valley late last week. “No purpose is served by their continued detention,” he said.

In his latest report on Lebanon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Lebanon’s paralysis over forming a government has prevented progress in implementing some of its key obligations under resolution 1701.

Mr. Ban calls on the newly designated Government to continue to cooperate with the tribunal on Mr. Hariri’s assassination, which was set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry was seriously flawed.

The Commission also found that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. The first indictments were handed up in January, but their contents remain confidential.

“I call upon the Government to be formed in Lebanon to reiterate its commitment to the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) in its ministerial statement, and to take necessary visible steps towards its implementation,” Mr. Ban says in the report.

Although the situation on the ground has remained relatively stable and calm during the three months covered by the report, both sides have yet to fulfil all the terms of the resolution. Israel has yet to withdraw from northern Ghajar and the adjacent area north of the Blue Line separating the countries.