Lebanon News

U.N. report highlights frontier, militia issues

BEIRUT: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cited Wednesday Lebanon’s failure to disarm non-state militias as well as procrastination concerning the delineation of the Syrian-Lebanese border as two key concerns undermining the country’s sovereignty and political independence.

Ban wrote in his 13th biannual report on the implementation of U.N. Resolution 1559 that political polarization in Lebanon has increased markedly in the last six months, namely over the as-yet-unreleased indictment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

“[This report] underlines the lack of progress on key provisions of Resolution [1559] and highlights concerns that continue to impede efforts to strengthen Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence which stand at the heart of the resolution,” Ban said in the preamble.

Adopted in September 2004, Resolution 1559 called on Lebanon to establish its sovereignty over its territories and called upon what it dubbed as “foreign forces,” namely Israel and Syria, to withdraw from Lebanon and to cease intervening in internal politics. The resolution also urged for the disbandment of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

Ban said that in the last six months there has been no tangible progress toward the implementation of the remaining provisions of the resolution, “in particular in the context of domestic political tensions.”

He said the delineation of the Syrian-Lebanese border has not taken place, adding that the existence and activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias continue to pose a threat to the stability of Lebanon and the region.

Ban issued an appeal to the Hezbollah leadership to disarm and transform into an exclusively political party.

“I call upon the leaders of Hezbollah to complete without delay the transformation of the group into a solely Lebanese political party and disarm consistent with the requirements of the Taif Accord and Resolution 1559,” he said, in reference to the 1989 agreement that ended the Civil War.

The secretary general, however, voiced his “firm” conviction that the disarmament of Hezbollah can best be achieved through a Lebanese-led political process.

At several instances, Ban mentioned the campaign led by the March 14 alliance to disarm Hezbollah.

He wrote that after several years of subscribing to a tenuous national consensus on the legitimacy of the arms of Hezbollah, the March 14 coalition have returned to singling out Hezbollah’s arsenal as the “main bone of contention in the country.”

Ban also described as “defiant” a speech on Feb.16 by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in which he said the campaign was futile and would lead nowhere.

But in an implicit reference to Syria and Iran, Ban also called on regional states supporting Hezbollah to “support and assist” the group in its disarmament, “in the best interest of regional peace and stability.”

Ban dedicated a significant part of the report to explaining that the delineation and demarcation of Lebanon’s boundaries were an essential element in guaranteeing the country’s territorial integrity.

He said only Lebanon designated its participants to the joint Lebanese-Syrian border committee tasked with demarcating the common border, adding that delineation remains an obligation of both Beirut and Damascus under resolutions 1559 and 1980 of 2006.

The U.N. chief wrote that the existence of militias in Lebanon necessitated an improvement of the management of Lebanon’s land borders, in an effort to prevent the unauthorized flow of people and weapons.

He said border delineation is rendered more difficult, and Lebanon’s sovereignty challenged even further, by the presence of paramilitary bases operated by Palestinian factions – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada – along the Syrian Lebanese-border.

“The permanent presence of such bases along the Syrian-Lebanese border adds to the general porosity of parts of the land border and poses a challenge for the control of the border by the Lebanese security forces,” Ban wrote.

He added that reports about illegal transfers of weapons on the border have continued to mount over the past six months, while urging Lebanon’s neighbor states to prevent the transfer of arms to groups outside the control of the Lebanese government.

“I appeal to all parties, inside and outside of Lebanon, to immediately halt all efforts to transfer, acquire weapons and build paramilitary capacities outside the authority of the Lebanese state,” he added.

Ban said he also took careful note of recent reports of an illegal flow of weapons from Lebanon, bound for Syria. Syrian state-run television aired what it described as the “confessions” of an alleged three-member terrorist cell last week, which claimed it has received funding and weapons from a Lebanese lawmaker to fuel the unrest in Syria.

Ban hailed the Lebanese security forces efforts to enforce the law and to protect the civilian population from harm. But he stressed that continued international support for the Lebanese Army remains critical.

“This critically required support,” he wrote, “is essential to enable the Lebanese Armed Forces to assume effectively its responsibility under relevant Security Council resolutions.”

Ban reiterated that he is “profoundly” concerned by the proliferation of non-state weapons and the deep divisions which remain over the STL.

“Preserving the stability of Lebanon and ensuring an end to impunity there is essential, if only because the Lebanese themselves have the right to both,” he added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 21, 2011, on page 2.

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