U.N NEWS SERVICE
Ban calls on Lebanon and Israel to fulfil obligations and consolidate stability
9 March 2011 –Lebanon’s paralysis over forming a government has prevented progress in implementing some of its key obligations in the United Nations resolution that ended the fighting between Israel and Hizbollah in 2006, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the issue.
At the same time he calls on Israel to take the necessary “visible steps” towards implementation of its obligations.
The Government, led by Saad Hariri, collapsed in January after 11 Hizbollah and allied ministers resigned, reportedly over its refusal to cease cooperation with the UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of Mr. Hariri’s father Rafiq and 22 others, with the media reporting that the court was about to indict Hizbollah members for the murders.
Mr. Ban has called on the newly designated Government to continue to cooperate with the court, set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry was seriously flawed. The Commission also found that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. The first indictments were handed up in January, but their contents remain confidential.
“I call upon the Government to be formed in Lebanon to reiterate its commitment to the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) in its ministerial statement, and to take necessary visible steps towards its implementation,” Mr. Ban says in the new report.
Although the situation on the ground has remained relatively stable and calm during the three months covered by the report, both sides have yet to fulfil all the terms of the resolution. Israel has yet to withdraw from northern Ghajar and the adjacent area north of the Blue Line separating the countries, which Mr. Ban urges it to do as soon as possible.
At the same time he voices concern at the almost daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty by Israeli over-flights of Lebanese. “These over-flights exacerbate tensions in the UNIFIL area of operations,” he writes, referring to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which has almost 12,000 peacekeepers on the ground.
“They also run counter to UNIFIL objectives and efforts to reduce tensions, and have a negative impact on the credibility of the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL. I call once again on Israel to cease immediately its over-flights,” he adds, while noting that Israel cites the alleged lack of enforcement of the arms embargo against militant groups, required by Resolution 1701, to justify them.
The resolution calls for the disarming of all militias and armed groups outside the national army and Mr. Ban terms the continued presence of Hizbollah and other groups “a serious challenge” the State’s ability to exercise full sovereignty and control over the territory.
“I call on Lebanese leaders to make progress towards the adoption of a national defence strategy that would address armed groups operating outside the control of the State and lead to their disarmament,” he says, also regretting the lack of progress in dismantling the military bases of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah al-Intifada.
He notes Israel’s assertion that Hizbollah continues to build up its military presence and capacity, including within the UNIFIL area, but writes that to date “UNIFIL has neither been provided with, nor found, evidence of the unauthorized transfer of arms into its area of operations.”
Citing Israeli “allegations of significant breaches of the arms embargo across the border” between Lebanon and Syria, he adds: “While the United Nations takes these allegations seriously, it is not in a position to verify this information independently.”
But he also notes that Hizbollah “asserts that it maintains a substantial military arsenal separate from that of the Lebanese State for defensive purposes against Israel.”
Mr. Ban calls on both Israel and Lebanon to take “constructive and pragmatic” steps to visibly mark the Blue Line so as to reduce friction and maintain stability.
UNIFIL, originally established in 1978, was greatly reinforced after the 2006 fighting to oversee the cessation of hostilities. It currently fields some 11,875 military personnel, including 495 women, and 341 international and 659 national civilian staff, and carries out some 10,000 patrols each month.