'Prevailing calm should not be confused with stability,' warns UN envoy for Lebanon

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag briefs the press at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

8 July 2016 – The United Nations envoy for Lebanon has asked the UN Security Council to devote greater attention to situation there, including the deteriorating security conditions, weakening State institutions and the need for continued dispersal of funding for the refugees hosted by the country.

Speaking to reporters today at UN Headquarters in New York, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, said she had had “a good discussion” with the Council in a closed-door session yesterday on issues relating to conflict prevention and stabilization.

Explaining the main points of her remarks to the Council, she said that a terrorist attack in the town of El-Qaa less than a week ago points to the deteriorating security conditions. “This is an indicator of trend of war-weary country, attempts, aborted attempts, infiltration by individuals who seek to do serious harms and conduct the act of terror,” she said.

Over the past six months, there were more than 270 arrests on terror-related charges, compared with more than 70 in the same period of last year, despite greater vigilance by the country's security apparatus.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are doing “a phenomenal job” but “on a shoestring,” Ms. Kaag said, calling for tangible support so that LAF can better respond to the deterioration of security.

She also impressed upon the Council the importance of implementing the UN Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism at the national level and asked the Council to help the country build capacities to do so.

“We had worked with the UN family and partners to have a draft ready; to look at Lebanon and the challenges it faces, in a holistic manner. But I think the timing and the importance of such a strategy is of course even more critical,” she said.

Turning to the erosion of State institutions, she pointed out that the Cabinet was hardly able to meet, and therefore decisions were not being made. There was an opportunity cost for such inaction. She said she asked the Council to continue working with Lebanon, along with such regional partners as Iran and Saudi Arabia, to see where political compromises can be made to end the political crisis, and resolve the presidential vacuum. She also expressed the expectation that the Parliamentary election would be held on time, as planned.

On the impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon, she said there was a continued need for timely assistance to Lebanon's hosting communities, as well as vulnerable refugees, including Syrians and Palestinians. Ms. Kaag stressed the need for donor countries to accelerate fulfillment of their commitments made at the London pledging conference on the Syrian refugees. For its part, Lebanon must take a number of procedural steps to access up to $800 million in concessional financing made available to the country.

As for a lack of progress on implementation of Council Resolution 1701 (2006), which calls for a permanent ceasefire, she said that the prevailing calm should not be confused with stability. The tenth anniversary of the text presents an opportunity to revisit the issue and seek ways to reengage the parties on the tangible way forward.

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