|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5888th Meeting (AM)
LEBANON REMAINS BATTLEGROUND FOR THOSE SEEKING TO DESTABILIZE REGION IN EFFORT
TO ESTABLISH DOMINANCE, SPECIAL ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
No Tangible Progress towards Implementation
Of Resolution 1559 (2004), Roed-Larsen Reports in Briefing on Middle East
Lebanon remained a battleground for actors seeking to destabilize the region for their own benefit and aspirations of dominance, Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations Special Envoy for implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), told the Security Council today as it met to consider the situation in the Middle East.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s seventh semi-annual report on implementation of the resolution, Mr. Roed-Larsen said the prolonged political and security crisis in the country illustrated that the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) remained as relevant now as they were at its adoption. Regrettably, there had been no tangible progress towards its implementation over the past six months. On the contrary, the riots that had started yesterday tragically showed that Lebanon today confronted challenges of a magnitude unseen since the end of the civil war.
He said the electoral void, the stalled functions of Parliament and the defiant manoeuvres of militias were all threats to Lebanon’s ability to operate as a sovereign, democratic and independent State, cautioning that those developments could have serious regional repercussions. Given the eighteenth postponement of the presidential election, to 13 May, the Secretary-General urged Parliament to convene on that date to fulfil its constitutional duties.
With that, the Lebanese people would have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in their difficult history, he continued. They and their political representatives must rise to the occasion and elect a President without any conditions beyond those prescribed by the Constitution. Such an election would signify a major milestone. A return to political dialogue among the Lebanese parties, through national constitutional institutions, was imperative, and the only way to resolve all outstanding issues. The Secretary-General stood firmly behind the legitimate Lebanese Government and people in their quest to recover their sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.
The Special Envoy said Lebanon’s continuing severe political crisis centred particularly on the failure to elect a new President, pointing out that the presidency had remained vacant since 24 November 2007 despite the sustained efforts of Lebanese, regional and international players. The electoral void had fuelled political polarization and impeded the normal functioning of legitimate constitutional institutions, particularly the Government and Parliament. It had also contributed to violent and dangerous confrontations between the opposing parties, leading to casualties.
Outlining several incidents that had occurred during the reporting period, he said that, on 20 April, two followers of the Phalange party had been killed and two wounded in the city of Zahle. On 5 May, five people had been wounded by gunfire in separate overnight clashes between supporters of the majority and the opposition, in Beirut and elsewhere in the country. On 7 May, Hizbullah-led demonstrators had blocked the principal highway and other roads leading to Beirut’s international airport, sea port and commercial centre with burning tyres and large mounds of earth. Soon afterwards, scuffles had broken out between pro-Government and opposition supporters in the Beirut neighbourhood of Corniche al-Mazraa. That evening, Future party supporters had blocked the main road between the towns of Baalbeck and Chtura in the Beka’a valley and the Masna’a road leading to the border with Syria. In addition, several armed clashes had occurred in the Beka’a valley, while heavy exchanges of fire had been reported in Beirut, around the national stadium adjacent to the airport road.
A very tense calm had since returned to the capital, he said, noting, however, that several roads remained closed. Access to Beirut International Airport remained restricted by Hizbullah roadblocks. So far, three people had been killed in the clashes and 10 injured. The United Nations remained in close touch with both sides and was gravely concerned about the potential for a further escalation of the situation. Several capitals in the region and beyond had publicly called for an end to the clashes, and the Secretary-General urged all parties to cease the riots immediately and to reopen all roads. The tense political climate was a significant obstacle to implementing resolution 1559 (2004).
Mr. Roed-Larsen said the continued existence of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and allegations of widespread rearming and paramilitary training across the political spectrum, were major challenges for the Lebanese Government and a threat to national stability. Hizbullah, the most significant Lebanese militia, had a massive paramilitary infrastructure separate from the State, and it was a matter of concern that its militants had carried weapons in populated areas during the recent clashes. The Government had informed the United Nations that Hizbullah had illegally developed an independent and secure national communications network, which the Government deemed an attack on State sovereignty. Lebanese officials also claimed that Hizbullah had established a surveillance system at Beirut airport, promoting the Government to remove Brigadier General Wafiq Shoucair from his security command at the facility.
Such developments gave rise to growing fears among the Lebanese that Hizbullah was building parallel institutional structures distinct from, and in competition with, those of the State, he continued. That contributed in turn to the erosion of the State and its monopoly on the use of force. The United Nations also continued to be deeply concerned about the activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah Al-Intifadh, which maintained significant paramilitary infrastructure outside refugee camps and along the Lebanese-Syrian border. During the reporting period, there had been no discussions among Lebanese political leaders about a political process leading to the disbanding and disarming of militias, stipulated in the 1989 Taif Agreement and resolution 1559 (2004).
The Secretary-General reiterated that the disarmament of militias must take place through a political process leading to the full affirmation of the authority of the Lebanese Government throughout the country, he said. The Secretary-General also called on all parties with close ties to Hizbullah, particularly Syria and Iran, to support its transformation into a political party. In addition, the Secretary-General urged Hizbullah to abide by the decisions of the Council and the Lebanese Government, in accordance with the Taif Agreement. Full disarmament was in the best interest of regional peace and stability.
Mr. Roed-Larsen stressed that a Lebanese President must be elected without delay in a free and fair electoral process conducted strictly according to Lebanese constitutional rules, without foreign interference and in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004). Such an election would help revive Lebanon’s constitutional process, particularly the convening of Parliament, which had been paralysed since November 2006. The Secretary-General supported fully the final communique of the March Arab League Summit, which urged the election of consensus candidate General Michel Sleiman, and the formation of a national unity Government as soon as possible.
He recalled that representatives of several Arab and European Union nations, as well as the United States and the United Nations Secretary-General, had met in Kuwait on 22 April and called on parties inside and outside Lebanon to respect the country’s independence and sovereignty. They had urged Syria and Lebanon to redefine and normalize ties in mutual respect for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence, as required under resolution 1680 (2006). The Secretary-General had continued efforts to encourage a process between Lebanon and Syria that would eventually lead to the establishment of full diplomatic relations, thus fulfilling the relevant provisions of that resolution.
During the reporting period, Mr. Roed-Larsen said, the Secretary-General had also promoted the timely implementation of tangible measures to delineate the Lebanese-Syrian border, as that would help significantly his efforts concerning the Shab’a Farms area and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s seven-point plan. While there had regrettably been no progress to date on those matters, the Secretary-General expected Syria’s full cooperation.
Also during the reporting period, he said, Israeli aircrafts had continued regularly to violate Lebanese territorial integrity by flying into Lebanese airspace for security reasons, according to the Israeli Government. The Secretary-General and his representatives had continued to reiterate the concern of the United Nations and to call on Israel to cease those violations. Moreover, Israel continued to occupy the northern part of Ghajar in violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
He said the Secretary-General commended and supported the tireless efforts of Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, to help the Lebanese bridge their differences and end the electoral void. The Secretary-General also called on Syria to accept Prime Minister Siniora’s outstretched hand in order to address and resolve the two countries’ bilateral differences. A return to political dialogue, the only way to resolve all outstanding issues, concerned, first and foremost, the election of a new President and the resumption of normal parliamentary activities.
For its meeting this morning, the Council had before it the full report of the Secretary-General (document S/2008/264).
The meeting began at 10:35 a.m. and concluded at 11 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record