Monday, July 27, 2009

Remarks by Deputy Permanent Representative, Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, on Lebanon, at the Security Council Stakeout, July 23, 2009

Ambassador: I just came from a briefing that Undersecretary-General Le Roy gave regarding the incidents in the period July 14 through 17 and 18 in southern Lebanon. They briefed on issues that were of grave concern. All members of the Council spoke—reflected that concern. And that is of the uncovering of a weapons cache in southern Lebanon in contravention to, and clear violation of, Resolution 1701. And all the indications that these are arms actively maintained by Hizballah; and ancillary, secondary incidents in which UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces efforts to investigate the situation and work in the region were impeded by Hizballah supporters and members of Hizballah.

So these were the main issues addressed this morning. We spoke about our views. We need to collectively reinforce and support UNIFIL's efforts to implement all of the provisions of 1701, the need for all parties—that's all states and all parties—in and around Lebanon to adhere to their obligations under the terms of the resolution. And in particular, that means no arms. And that means no violation of the arms embargo and that means no arms that are not part of the Lebanese Armed Forces or authorized by UNIFIL should be in that area. And that violation shows how perilous the situation remains and how important that UNIFIL be supported in its efforts to ensure that there are no arms entering southern Lebanon. And beyond that, the obligation that every state and every group has to ensure that there's a full and total arms embargo -- except for those arms legitimately destined for the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Reporter: Mr. Ambassador, what do you think of the letter from the Lebanese Mission that say this cache of weapons was an Israeli cache?

Ambassador: Well, I read the letter and I heard the briefing by the undersecretary-general. And I can tell you that it's clear there were weapons that date from some time back, according to the U.N.

But what's also clear is that this is an actively maintained cache. Now, I'm not sure that the letter suggests -- and I don't think the fact that Hizballah's trying removing evidence or Hizballah supporters are trying to impede a UNIFIL investigation suggests that this is an Israeli cache.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Ambassador: Well, we were briefed also on the breach of the blue line by Lebanese civilians. That also is a violation of the blue line, which deplore -- we deplore all violations of the blue line.

And the issue of Shebaa Farms was not addressed and you know our view on that. And that first instance requires demarcation of that territory between Lebanon and Syria.

Reporter: One, you said all indications are that this was active -- that this is an actively maintained cache. Is that your assessment or the Undersecretary-General's assessment?

Ambassador: That was the Undersecretary-General's.

Reporter: And second, can you comment on the issue of, you know, pelting by stones of UNIFIL observers. Does that—is that an attempt to actively hamper the investigation in your view or is it—what happened there?

Ambassador: Well, the net effect -- the briefing we received made one thing clear: The investigation was impeded. And what else can you expect when UNIFIL and LAF forces are being pelted by stones?

And the troubling element is that this seemed to be quite organized. This was not spontaneous. This was not simply, as some might suggest, homeowners worried about intrusions on their land or homes; that this was designed to impede the investigation and indications also of providing cover for efforts to remove evidence. So—also an element of concern.

But let me return to the key point here: The importance of strict adherence to the terms of 1701 across the board. And this weapons cache demonstrates that there's, you know, a major violation at the root of what 1701 was supposed to deal with and that is eliminating all arms, except for those that belong to Lebanese Armed Forces.

Reporter: (inaudible)—espionage ring—(inaudible).

Ambassador: We didn't discuss that today.

Reporter: Actually, my question was also about the espionage ring and spy networks which constitute a great violation of 1701 and also to the sovereignty of Lebanon.

How to go forward on that? Are we going to ignore them or is there any plans to deal with this violation that was took?

Ambassador: Well, again, I think there's primarily an investigation under way by the Lebanese government as to what happened. And I'm not going to comment any more other than -- you know -- so we'll leave it at that.

Reporter: Any plans to do anything about this at the Security Council?

Ambassador: Well, we have a -- you know, we have a renewal of the UNIFIL mandate coming up, so I'm sure it will be part of the backdrop to that renewal.

Thank you.

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