13 May 2016 – A United Nations envoy for Lebanon reported to the Security Council today on how the current political paralysis, including the two-year presidential vacuum, is negatively impacting the country's ability to make vital decisions.
"Undoubtedly, since the resolution was passed in September 2004, a lot has been achieved," Terje Roed-Larsen said at a press stakeout following closed-door consultations with the Security Council, referring the 15-member body's resolution 1559, which declared support for free and fair elections in Lebanon and called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.
An example of such achievement included the withdrawal in 2005 of Syrian troops and military assets from Lebanon on the basis of the resolution. Mr. Roed-Larsen recalled that it was an agreement which he made on behalf of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Aleppo, highlighting that had been honoured by Syria's Government "to the letter."
The UN official, who is stepping down from his duties as the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Security Council resolution 1559 after serving in this role for 12 years, noted that the agreement was followed by the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria in 2009, and also allowed the presidential and parliamentary elections to be freely and fairly conducted in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
"These landmark events demonstrate the positive and important impact that resolution 1559 has had on the political independence and sovereignty of Lebanon," he underlined.
However, Mr. Roed-Larsen stressed that other provisions of the resolution are not only lagging behind, but the failure to implement them may also erode the progress achieved so far.
"At the Council today, I spoke at length about the presidential vacuum and its negative effect on the ability of Lebanon to make important decisions. The current paralysis undermines the institutions that have proven effective in running the country," he warned.
Lebanon has now been without a Head of State or military chief for two years. The envoy said it is of "paramount importance" for the country to elect a president and get the parliament to function properly. He added that it is an "internal matter" and the international community should only advise Lebanese decision makers, leaving the election of a president to the parliament.
Meanwhile, he underlined that the most outstanding provision in resolution 1559 is the disarmament and disbandment of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.
"Since 2004, not only have the militias' presence and activities continued but if anything they have expanded. Their growing capabilities are a source of concern. They represent a major and very dangerous threat to Lebanon's sovereignty, stability and political independence," he stressed.
With Mr. Roed-Larsen's departure at the end of the month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to task the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, to take on the responsibilities of reporting on resolution 1559 until the end of this year, so as to give the next Secretary-General flexibility to choose on how to report on the resolution.