Tensions in southern Lebanon ‘calming down’ after incidents – UN envoy

UNIFIL Peacekeeper patrols the “Blue Line” that demarcates the border between Lebanon and Israel. UN Photo/E. Debebe

22 July 2009 – The tensions that have recently flared up in southern Lebanon have begun to ease, a top United Nations official said today, adding that all sides have expressed their commitment to restore stability to the area.

“We see the situation as calming down,” the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, said following his meeting in Beirut with the country’s Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

Mr. Williams has been meeting over the past couple of days with senior Lebanese officials regarding an explosion that took place at an arms cache last week, as well as the wounding of a number of peacekeepers serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) during an investigation into the blast.

One of UNIFIL’s tasks is to ensure that there are no unauthorized armed personnel, assets or weapons between the Blue Line – which separates the Lebanese forces and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – and the Litani River. It investigates any claims in that regard, in collaboration with Lebanese forces, if specific information is received.

In addition to Mr. Salloukh, Mr. Williams has also discussed the situation with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Hizbollah.

“All… have assured me strongly that active efforts are under way to reduce the tension and restore stability to the area,” he stated.

Discussions also centred on the importance of the full implementation by all sides of Security Council resolution 1701, which helped end the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah. That text called for, among others, renewed respect for the Blue Line, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling.

Mr. Williams added that the UN has urged both Lebanon and Israel to refrain from any actions “which could be perceived as provocative and which could spiral into undesirable results.”


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