SYRIA’S WITHDRAWAL FROM LEBANON ‘HISTORIC DAY’ FOR MIDDLE EAST, SPECIAL ENVOY TERJE ROED-LARSEN TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

29 April 2005
SC/8372

SYRIA’S WITHDRAWAL FROM LEBANON ‘HISTORIC DAY’ FOR MIDDLE EAST, SPECIAL ENVOY TERJE ROED-LARSEN TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

29/04/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8372

Security Council

5172nd Meeting (AM)

SYRIA’S WITHDRAWAL FROM LEBANON ‘HISTORIC DAY’ FOR MIDDLE EAST,

SPECIAL ENVOY TERJE ROED-LARSEN TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Says UN Verification Team Arrived 26 April in Damascus,

Describes Steps Taken on Other Aspects of Resolution 1559 (2004)

The 26th of April -- the day of Syria’s formal notification to the United Nations that it had withdrawn all of its troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon -- was undoubtedly an historic day for the Syrian and Lebanese peoples, and for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), told the Security Council this morning.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s first semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), he noted that the Secretary-General had dispatched a United Nations mission to verify the full and complete withdrawal of Syrian forces.  Established with the full agreement of the Lebanese and Syrian Governments, the mission had arrived in Damascus on 26 April.  The Secretary-General had asked the two Governments to fully cooperate with the mission, and he would soon forward his conclusions as a supplement to his present report.

Mr. Roed-Larsen said the withdrawal would require a wide-ranging redefinition of the long-standing close ties between the two countries, and the full implementation of all requirements of the resolution would help enable the people of Lebanon to begin setting aside the “enchaining and constraining vestiges of a captive past”.  It would also set an important precedent, illustrating the international community’s commitment to the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions.  Implementation should continue to proceed in such a way as to ensure the stability and unity of Lebanon, Syria, and the wider region as the two countries made significant progress towards establishing diplomatic representations in their respective capitals and formalizing their special relationship.

The United Nations had conducted a dialogue with some relevant parties on the resolution’s provision regarding the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, he said.  That dialogue was expected to intensify in the coming months.  The Lebanese Government did not yet have full control over all its territory, and it was the Secretary-General’s strong belief that more must be done to meet the Council’s call for extended measures to ensure the return of effective governmental authority throughout the south of Lebanon, including the deployment of additional armed forces along the Blue Line.  The Government was also expected to extend its control over territory vacated by Syrian forces.

Commending Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s decision to hold elections as scheduled, beginning on 29 May, and welcoming the unequivocal parliamentary vote of confidence in the new Lebanese Government, Mr. Roed-Larsen said that confirmation was a strong manifestation of the will of the Lebanese people.  Delaying the polls could exacerbate the political divisions in Lebanon and threaten the country’s security, stability and prosperity.  In order to ensure that the parliamentary elections were conducted in a free and credible manner, United Nations electoral experts would arrive in Beirut early next week, with the full understanding of the Lebanese Government.  The Secretary-General had encouraged the presence of international electoral observers to monitor the elections.

The meeting began at 10:45 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m.

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Middle East, for which it had before if the first semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).  In it, the Secretary-General notes that the requirements of the resolution have not yet been met; however, the parties concerned have made “significant and noticeable” progress towards implementing some of its provisions.

In the report, the Secretary-General recalls the main terms of the resolution, by which the Council:  called on all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias; supported the extension of the Government’s control over all Lebanese territory; and declared its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon’s then upcoming presidential election, conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence.

In terms of meeting the resolution’s requirements, the Secretary-General says that of particular importance was the commitment given him by the Syrian Government to withdraw all its troops and military assets and the intelligence apparatus from Lebanon by 30 April and its letter to him of 26 April stating that it had completed the full withdrawal of its troops and military assets and intelligence apparatus (the letter is annexed to the present report).  There has been no progress on the implementation of the text’s other provisions.

The report finds that Lebanon “has reached a critical juncture” in its post-civil war history.  In the Secretary-General’s previous report to the Council, he had said that more than 14 years after the end of hostilities and almost five years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, “it was time for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past and to end, with finality, that sad chapter of Lebanese history”.

“The full and complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and military assets and the intelligence apparatus would represent a significant and important step towards this goal and towards ending the heavy-handed foreign interference that has characterized Lebanese politics for decades”, he says in the present report.  He added that in his conversation with President Assad, he reached agreement that a technical United Nations verification mission would be dispatched in order to verify the full Syrian withdrawal.  He will forward to the Council his conclusions based on the report of this mission as an addendum to the present report.

Full and complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and military assets and the intelligence apparatus from Lebanon in fulfilment of the commitments made to the Secretary-General by the Syrian Government and in full compliance with resolution 1559 (2004) will also require the Governments of Lebanon and Syria to “redefine the special relationship” that exists between them.  In this regard, the two countries should make significant progress towards the establishment of mutual diplomatic representation and an appropriate formalization of their special relationship prior to the Secretary-General’s next report to the Council.

In his efforts over the past six months, he says that he has assigned the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon, specifically the pull-out of Syrian forces, and the matter of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon the highest priority.  He has concentrated his efforts on the latter provision because of the increasing political polarization in Lebanon and the deteriorating security situation.  He has also been concerned over the impact on the economy of the deteriorating situation.  Furthermore, he has been particularly concerned about the holding of parliamentary elections as a test of Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity and political independence.

The Secretary-General goes on to say that it is highly unfortunate that a six-week-long political stalemate in Lebanon raised the spectre of a delay of the parliamentary elections.  Such a delay would contribute to further exacerbating the political divisions in Lebanon and threaten the country’s security, stability and prosperity.  Both the Lebanese Government and the opposition have told the Secretary-General that their highest priority is the holding of free and fair elections.  Such elections should be held on schedule and in accordance with an electoral law that is broadly accepted by the Lebanese people.  In this context, he welcomed Prime Minister Mikati’s pledge to conduct the elections as scheduled.

In order to ensure that such elections can be conducted in a free and credible manner, the Secretary-General says he has been discussing with the Lebanese Government the possibility of extending United Nations technical assistance at its request.  He has further encouraged the idea that international governmental and/or non-governmental electoral observers be invited to monitor the elections.  He is awaiting a request to this effect from the Lebanese Government.

The Secretary-General, meanwhile, urges all parties concerned to comply with all requirements of resolution 1559 (2004) without delay and to fully implement that and all other resolutions related to the restoration of Lebanon’s territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence.  He continues to believe that implementation of the resolution should proceed in a way that would best ensure the stability and unity of Lebanon, Syria, and the wider region.  In this context, he also remains committed to the implementation of all Security Council resolutions and the ultimate achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Briefing Summary

TERJE ROED-LARSEN, Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), said that 26 April was a historic day for the Lebanese and Syrian people and for the Middle East.

He said that the visible withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and Syria’s formal notification of the United Nations through a letter form Foreign Minister Sharaa to the Council President and the Secretary-General that Syria had withdrawn all its troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon were unquestionably momentous events.

It was the Lebanese civil war that had led to the deployment of foreign forces on Lebanese territory, he recalled.  Now, 30 years later, a full and complete Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon would represent a significant and important step towards drawing a final line under the saddest chapter of Lebanese history.

He said that a full Syrian withdrawal would also represent significant and important action towards ending, with finality, the foreign interference that had characterized Lebanese politics for decades.  He welcomed the letter from the Syrian Government to the Secretary-General notifying him that Syria had completed its withdrawal of all its troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon.  He also welcomed Syria’s commitment to the full implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) and to the fulfilment of its obligations under that text.

In order to verify the full and complete withdrawal of Syrian forces, the Secretary-General had dispatched a United Nations verification mission, he noted.  The mission, which had been established in full agreement with the Governments of Syria and Lebanon, had arrived in Damascus on 26 April.  The Secretary-General had asked the two Governments to fully cooperate with the mission and to provide all relevant information and documentation concerning the former deployment of Syrian troops, military assets and intelligence apparatus in Lebanon.  Both Governments had assured him that they would assist the mission in its important task.  The Secretary-General would forward his conclusions related to the Syrian withdrawal as a supplement to his present report to the Council soon.

Mr. Roed-Larsen said that a full and complete withdrawal of Syrian troops, military assets, and intelligence apparatus from Lebanon would require a wide-ranging redefinition of the long-standing close ties between Syria and Lebanon.  In that regard, it was to be expected that the two countries would make significant progress towards the establishment of diplomatic representations in their respective capitals and towards an appropriate formalization of their special relationship.  That, of course, was a bilateral matter.

In his efforts over the past six months, the Secretary-General had assigned a particularly high priority, not only to the provisions of resolution 1559, but also on the respect for, and full restoration of, Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence, for which withdrawal of foreign forces was a precondition, he said.  Another precondition, and a most visible indication of the sovereignty and political independence of any democracy, was the holding of free and credible parliamentary elections.  The Secretary-General, therefore, had also assigned a very high priority to the matter.

Mr. Roed-Larsen commended the decision of Prime Minister Mikati’s Government to hold elections on time and as scheduled, beginning on 29 May.  He also welcomed the unequivocal confirmation Mr. Mikati’s new government had received in the Lebanese Parliament, where it passed a vote of confidence with 109 to 1 votes, with 3 abstentions, on 27 April.  The vote was a strong manifestation of the will of the Lebanese people, and an endorsement of Mr. Mikati’s pledge to hold the elections on time.  Delaying the elections could have exacerbated the political divisions in Lebanon and threatened the country’s security, stability and prosperity.  It was the Secretary-General’s strong conviction, therefore, that the elections should be held on time and without delay.

The elections should also be held in accordance with an electoral law that was broadly accepted by the Lebanese people, he stressed.  Further, in order to ensure that the parliamentary elections could be conducted in a free and credible manner, the United Nations had been discussing with the Lebanese Government the possibility of extending United Nations technical assistance.  United Nations electoral experts would arrive in Beirut early next week, with the full understanding of the Lebanese Government.  Those advisers would assist the Government in its preparations for such free and credible elections.

The Secretary-General had also encouraged the idea that international electoral observers be invited to monitor the elections, he noted.  In close cooperation with, particularly, the European Union, the United Nations would continue its constructive dialogue with the Lebanese Government on that matter.  The parties had made significant and noticeable progress towards implementing some of the provisions contained in resolution 1559; however, the United Nations could not yet certify that the requirements of the resolution had been met.  There had been a lack of progress on the implementation of other provisions.  The report of the verification mission was also awaited.

Regarding the Council’s call in resolution 1559 that all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias be disbanded and disarmed, he said that the United Nations had conducted a dialogue with some relevant parties on that matter.  Operational conclusions on the matter had not yet been reached, but the dialogue was expected to intensify in the coming months.  With respect to the Council’s support of the extension of the control of the Lebanese Government over all Lebanese territory, the Government did not yet fully exert control over all of its territory.  It was the Secretary-General’s strong belief that more needed to be done to meet the Council’s call for extended measures to ensure the return of effective governmental authority throughout the south of Lebanon.  That would include the deployment of additional Lebanese armed forces, including along the Blue Line.

He said he also expected the Lebanese Government to extend its control over Lebanese territory vacated by Syrian forces.  He reiterated the Secretary-General’s call, urging all parties concerned to comply with all requirements of resolution 1559 without delay.  He also urged all parties, in keeping with that text, to fully implement that and all other resolutions related to the restoration in Lebanon of territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence.

The United Nations strongly believed that full implementation of all requirements of the resolution would help enable the people of Lebanon and of the entire region to begin setting aside the “enchaining and constraining vestiges of a captive past”, he said.  The text’s full implementation, with the Secretary-General’s backing and active engagement, would set an important precedent, illustrating the commitment of the international community to the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions.  Implementation of the resolution should continue to proceed in a way that would best ensure the stability and unity of Lebanon, of Syria, and of the wider region.

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For information media. Not an official record.