Saturday, May 01, 2010

Unresolved issues adding to tensions in Lebanon and wider region – UN envoy

29 April 2010 – Recent tensions in Lebanon and the region highlight the need to tackle unresolved issues related to the country’s sovereignty and stability, such as the presence of armed militias, a senior United Nations envoy said today.
“As long as these unresolved issues are there, there will always be tensions,” Terje Roed-Larsen, Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, told reporters at UN Headquarters following a closed-door meeting with the 15-member body.
Resolution 1559 was adopted by the Council six years ago amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon. It calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.
Among the unresolved issues is the “heavily armed militias” operating inside and outside Lebanon, said Mr. Roed-Larsen, who presented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on resolution 1559 to the Council.
In his report, Mr. Ban warned that the presence of armed militias continues to pose a threat to the country and the region, despite major strides in strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty such as the holding of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, and the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Middle East neighbours.
The report also noted that while political life in Lebanon has been generally stable over the past six months, there have been some public exchanges of criticism between Lebanese leaders.
“This has generated tension and worsened the political climate, in the wider context of an escalation of rhetoric at the regional level,” wrote Mr. Ban.
Mr. Roed-Larsen said that lately these tensions have risen to a new high, but they are now at “a more normal and low ebb” in Lebanon and in the region.
“The Secretary-General has personally spoken to the key leaders and asked them to lower their rhetoric and act responsibly, and I think his calls have been heeded. This is one of the reasons why the rhetoric is now more… softer and more reconciliatory.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Presence of armed militias threaten recent progress in Lebanon, says UN report

22 April 2010 – Despite major strides in strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the presence of armed militias continues to pose a threat to the country and the region, warns a new United Nations report.
“The existence of armed groups outside Government control is a fundamental anomaly that stands against the democratic aspirations of Lebanon and threatens domestic peace. It is also an obstacle to the prosperity and welfare that the Lebanese people deserve,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1559.

Adopted by the Council in 2004 amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon, the resolution calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.

“Militias defying the control of the legitimate government are incompatible with the restoration and full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of the country,” Mr. Ban says.

He adds that the maintenance of Hizbollah’s independent paramilitary capacity continues to be central to the political debate in Lebanon and the ongoing process of post-civil war reconciliation, and poses a key challenge to the safety of Lebanese civilians and to the authority of the Government.

The Secretary-General calls on Hizbollah’s leaders to complete the transformation of the group into a solely Lebanese political party, consistent with previous agreements.

There is also growing alarm, Mr. Ban notes, at the serious allegations of major arms transfers to Lebanon through its land borders.

“I am concerned that such activities have the potential to destabilize the country and could lead to another conflict,” he states, appealing to all parties, inside and outside Lebanon, to immediately halt all efforts to acquire or transfer weapons and build paramilitary capacities outside the State’s authority.

The report also points to important achievements such as the formal parliamentary endorsement of the Government of national unity in December 2009, six months after the parliamentary elections.

“This creates an opportunity to move forward towards the strengthening of Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and political independence, which stands at the heart of resolution 1559 (2004). It also paves the way to further revitalizing the political institutions of the State.”

Mr. Ban notes that Lebanon is currently witnessing its longest period of domestic stability and “all Lebanese must continue to work together in a spirit of coexistence and democracy to safeguard the achievements they have made since 2004 towards strengthening the sovereignty and independence of their country and its institutions.

“I urge all political leaders to transcend sectarian and individual interests and promote the future and the interests of the nation in good faith,” he writes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UN envoy voices hope for calm and safe Lebanese municipal elections

13 April 2010 – The top United Nations envoy to Lebanon today stressed the need to ensure a calm and safe atmosphere ahead of the country’s municipal elections, which are slated to be held next month.
Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, discussed the preparations for the forthcoming polls with the country’s Minister of Social Affairs, Salim Sayegh, in the capital, Beirut.

“I trust that this process will take place in a democratic and safe atmosphere free from intimidation,” Mr. Williams said in a statement following the meeting.

He also welcomed the decision taken on 9 March by the last session of the national dialogue, a political reconciliation process in which all political parties agreed to maintain a calm atmosphere in the period leading up to the elections.

The four rounds of the 2010 municipal elections are scheduled to be held every Sunday in May starting in Beirut, followed by the Bekaa region, then south Lebanon and finally in north Lebanon, according to media reports.

Mr. Williams added that he looks forward to further progress by the national dialogue, which will meet again on 15 April, to keep channels of communication open among the difference political sides in the country.

He and Mr. Sayegh also discussed the general situation in Lebanon and in particular the implementation of resolution 1701, the Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lebanon: UN calls for continued dialogue ahead of municipal elections

23 March 2010 – Municipal elections planned for Lebanon later this year must be free and fair, a senior United Nations official said today as he urged the country’s political leaders to continue to pursue dialogue to ensure that tensions are eased ahead of the polls.

Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, spoke to reporters in Beirut after meeting Prime Minister Saad Hariri to brief him on recent developments, particularly the Security Council briefing on Lebanon earlier this month.

He noted that the Lebanese Parliament is discussing draft reforms for the municipal elections – including races for local council members and town and village leaders – that are scheduled to take place later this year.

“Whatever the Lebanese decide in this regard, we hope that the elections will take place in a free, fair and democratic atmosphere,” Mr. Williams said. “I welcome particularly the recent meeting of the National Dialogue [a political reconciliation process] and the reaffirmation of the commitment of Lebanese leaders to stability and calm rhetoric as municipal elections draw near.”

Responding to questions from journalists, the Special Coordinator also called on all sides to do more to fully implement the Security Council resolution from 2006 that ended that year’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rise in strident rhetoric in Israel and Lebanon concerns Secretary-General

11 March 2010 – More than three years after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a complete halt to fighting between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah, the situation in the region remains fragile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, which also raises concerns over increasingly bellicose rhetoric warning of renewed fighting.
Resolution 1701, adopted by the Council in August 2006, called for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah, respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling.
plementation, Mr. Ban writes that he is “pleased” by the parties’ continued commitment to the resolution. “The continued respect of the cessation of hostilities by Israel and Lebanon has provided for the most stable period in the relationship between the two countries for decades.”
But he warns that the fragility of the situation is exacerbated by ever more strident rhetoric, “which raises tensions and should be avoided,” as well as being in contravention of the spirit of the resolution.
The foundation for a permanent ceasefire has been laid by the new strategic environment and the relative stability in southern Lebanon, which the UN peacekeeping operation in the country (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces help establish, the new report notes.
But the opportunity created by UNIFIL’s presence cannot be maintained indefinitely, it warns. “It is the responsibility of the parties to focus on all outstanding issues in order to reach a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution as envisaged” in the resolution.
Mr. Ban expresses his concern over Israel’s continued occupation of the north part of the village of Ghajar, north of the Blue Line, although it should have withdrawn in compliance with resolution 1701.
He also notes that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) “continue to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty” and the resolution almost daily through overflights of Lebanese territory, creating “a tense situation” and the possibility of an incident which could escalate.
A further violation of the resolution was revealed when UNIFIL discovered weapons in its area of operations, he says. The UN regularly receives reports that Hizbollah has re-established its arsenal and military capabilities, both inside and outside UNIFIL’s area of operations.
The report also finds that the presence of armed groups in Lebanon, operating outside the State’s control, challenges its ability to exercise its full sovereignty and control over its territory in accordance with resolution 1701.
“As I have stated before, I believe that the disarmament of armed groups should be carried out through a Lebanese-led political process,” the Secretary-General says, calling on the Lebanese President to reconvene the National Dialogue to reach consensus on the national defence strategy.
“The situation prevailing between Lebanon and Israel, which is of the utmost relevance to the implementation” of the resolution, “is inevitably affected by regional dynamics,” especially the paucity of progress on the Middle East peace process.
Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams will brief the Security Council tomorrow on Mr. Ban’s report.

Friday, March 05, 2010

President Cassese submits Annual Report on first anniversary of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Leidschendam, Today 1 March 2010, pursuant to Article 10(2) of the Statute, the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Antonio Cassese submitted the first Tribunal's Annual Report to the UN Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon. The Annual Report aims to illustrate the steps taken, the achievements made a well as the hurdles encountered during the STL's first year (March 2009-February 2010). Subject to the consent of the Secretary-General and the Government of Lebanon, the Annual Report will be made public in due course.

In commenting on the first anniversary of the Tribunal, President Cassese stated “The aims of the Tribunal are to render justice, to provide truth and peace of mind for the victims as well as to contribute to reconciliation within Lebanese society. The Tribunal further intends to strengthen the culture of accountability. We aim at dispensing justice impartially, fairly and free from any political or ideological bias, in full respect for the rights of defendants and victims.” The President stressed that the STL is aware of the challenges it has to face. But the Tribunal - he added - is prepared to meet these challenges and successfully complete its mandate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

UN committed to ensuring justice, Ban says on anniversary of Hariri killings

New York, 12 February 2010 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri

As Lebanon marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack that took the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, the Secretary-General stands with the people of Lebanon in commemorating the life and achievements of Mr. Hariri and renews his condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible crime.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to the efforts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to uncover the truth, so as to bring those responsible to justice and end impunity in Lebanon.