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There is consensus on a stable Lebanon: Plumbly

  • Plumbly: The decision to increase Army presence along the border was positive.

BEIRUT: United Nations special coordinator Derek Plumbly said Monday that there was an international consensus to keep Lebanon stable, and cautioned that leaders shouldn’t be distracted by regional turmoil and neglect national issues.

Speaking at a meeting in Beirut of the Harvard Alumni Club in Lebanon, Plumbly weighed in on a broad array of U.N.-related issues in the country, placing particular emphasis on the crisis in Syria and maintaining stability.

“Where there may be different views with regard to Syria, there is an absolute unanimity and unity of view across the membership of the Security Council, and I think you can say pretty well across the international community, to keep Lebanon safe,” Plumbly said.

Plumbly covered the touchstones of Lebanese current affairs. He emphasized the importance of the government insulating the country from the Syrian crisis, helping refugees, implementing U.N. resolutions in the south and holding National Dialogue sessions.

The crisis in Syria has raised sectarian tensions in Lebanon and has caused a spike in kidnappings and clashes.

Cross-border raids and shelling have intensified along the Syria-Lebanon border over the past several months leading to a number of deaths and provoking Syrian Army incursions into Lebanon. Some politicians have accused Lebanese border towns of sheltering Syrian opposition fighters, while others say Syria is deliberately violating Lebanon’s sovereignty.

The government has taken steps to increase border security including increasing Army presence in the north. Last week, President Michel Sleiman sent a letter of protest to the Syrian ambassador in Beirut.

Plumbly commended those steps directed by Sleiman to increase the presence of the Lebanese Army along the border.

“All of this puts a very heavy responsibility on the Lebanese Armed Forces. Frankly I think it was welcomed across the international community [as were] the steps taken by the president, the additional deployment and declarations that were made,” he said.

The instability in Syria and heightened political tension across the region is making it harder for the U.N. to make progress, particularly in south Lebanon and in its implementation of U.N. Resolution 1701, Plumbly said. Nonetheless, he expressed hope for progress.

He also called for more international funding to help Syrian refugees, but said the refugee population wasn’t in completely desperate conditions due to the hospitality of Lebanese families and U.N. aid.

Despite regional stability and public focus on change in the Middle East, Plumbly asked for leaders not to neglect national and local issues that are just as important to keeping the country stable.

“All of the issues aren’t security issues; all of the issues aren’t regional issues,” Plumbly said. “You have to think about the security, think about the stability but also it’s business as usual.”

He emphasized the importance of making progress on the electoral law and infrastructure improvements.

Holding on to the measure of peace Lebanon has is possible with the will of the country’s leaders, the U.N. envoy said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2012, on page 4.
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