Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Lebanese government brings ‘mood of optimism’ needed to address ongoing challenges – UN envoy

10 November 2016 – Despite continuing challenges, a mood of optimism has taken hold in Lebanon following the recent election of President Michel Aoun and additional political breakthroughs are expected.

The UN Special Coordinator for the country, Sigrid Kaag, spoke with UN Radio as she prepared to update the UN Security Council in New York on the ongoing situation.

Lebanon is in a volatile region, particularly given the ongoing crisis in Syria. The stability of the country is therefore crucial. It is currently hosting 1.1 million Syrian refugees in addition to the 300,000 Palestine refugees since 1948.

"Lebanon is a unique country. It needs to be preserved and shielded," said Ms. Kaag as she called upon the international community to do its part.

President Aoun was elected on 31 October 2016, ending the country's 29 months without a president. Following his election, the Security Council urged the new Government to build on efforts to ensure the nation's stability in the region.

In terms of security challenges, Ms. Kaag explained that the situation is always evolving. "There are risks of incursion, of armed extremists from neighbouring Syria," she said. "There is a continuous slow undercurrent, a risk of radicalization within the country. And, of course, the broader socio-economic conditions that have negatively affected Lebanon in view also of the Syria crisis – that creates new tensions within."

When asked about the effects of the refugee situation in the country, the Special Coordinator applauded the Lebanese Government and its people for their tremendous generosity of spirit. Nearly one in four people in Lebanon are refugees – something that she acknowledged is not sustainable for the small country.

However, according to Ms. Kaag, the matter is "less of a security issue and more of an overall containment of a situation which presents a challenge for Lebanese citizens and of course the refugees who look forward to a safe return when time permits."

She cited the nation's tolerance and accommodating response, but also noted that people remain anxious as the refugees' return depends on a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

"In the meantime," she said, "we have to do as much as we can to provide support to the refugees: protection, access to school, healthcare, and employment opportunities where possible. But we also have to make sure that [those who are] vulnerable [in Lebanon] do not feel left behind and that they are taken care of."

The recently elected Government, she said, has "given a new level of confidence." The "incredible dignity and ability to thrive despite all the challenges is remarkable."

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Welcoming Lebanon’s new President, Security Council cites forming unity government as key to stability

1 November 2016 – The United Nations Security Council today welcomed the election of Michel Aoun as the President of Lebanon, noting that it represents a long-awaited and critical step to overcome the country's political and institutional crisis.

Adopting a Presidential Statement, the 15-member Council urged the new President and Lebanese leaders to build on their efforts thus far by continuing to work constructively to promote the country's stability, and by swiftly forming a government.

The Council stressed that the formation of a unity government and the election of a parliament by May 2017 are critical for Lebanon's stability and resilience to withstand regional challenges.

The Council encouraged Lebanese parties to demonstrate renewed unity and determination to ensure Lebanon's ability to address the growing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country, while underscoring its previous calls on all parties to recommit to Lebanon's policy of dissociation and to cease any involvement in the Syrian crisis.

The Council commended Prime Minister Tammam Salam for his efforts to enable the Government to function effectively without a President, and also commended Speaker Nabih Berri for his efforts at fostering continued dialogue among all Lebanese parties.

Furthermore, the Council expressed its appreciation for the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon and calls on the international community, including international organizations, to ensure continued support to Lebanon in addressing the economic, security and humanitarian challenges facing the country.

The Council also reiterated its support to the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag.

The United Nations works on multiple fronts to assist Lebanon in forging a peaceful, stable and democratic future. The world body's efforts there include the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) – the Special Coordinator serves as the Secretary-General's representative to the Lebanese Government, all political parties and the diplomatic community based in the country and carries out good offices work on behalf of the UN chief to assist Lebanese parties to reach peaceful and consensus-based solutions to contentious issues.

Joint Press Statement of the International Support Group for Lebanon on Election of President

Joint Press Statement issued by International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG)
Comprising the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon and Ambassadors of the Arab League, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States
Beirut, Lebanon
31 October 2016
The members of the International Support Group for Lebanon congratulate Mr. Michel Aoun on his election today as President of the Republic of Lebanon.  They welcome the election of a President as a long-awaited step to overcome Lebanon’s political and institutional crisis. They hope that it will give the Lebanese people renewed confidence and will pave the way for broader political progress. 
The members of the ISG stress the importance for domestic and regional stability of Lebanon’s continued commitment to the Baabda Declaration and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1701 (2006), as well as respect for its international obligations.
As called for in their earlier statements and in the Presidential Statement of the Security Council of 22 July, the members of the ISG underscore the need to advance at this time with the formation of a Government as soon as possible as well as with the election of a Parliament by May 2017, in accordance with the Constitution.  The members of the ISG note that further international support for Lebanon will be facilitated by the reactivation of Lebanese State institutions, in particular a unified and functioning government, and stand ready to engage to that end with such a government, once it is formed. The members of the ISG encourage all Lebanese parties to work constructively to that end, and further call on Lebanon’s regional partners to remain supportive of such efforts.
The members of the ISG thank Speaker Nabih Berri for his efforts at fostering continued dialogue among all Lebanese parties. 
The members of the ISG further thank Prime Minister Tamam Salam for his leadership throughout this difficult period.