24 January 2006
Security Council Notes Significant Progress in Lebanon, Including Withdrawal of Foreign Forces, Holding of Parliamentary Elections in 2005
But Presidential Statement Cites Need to Disband Militias, Extend Government Control over all Lebanese Territory
NEW YORK, 23 January (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council today noted that significant further progress had been made towards implementing resolution 1559 (2004), particularly the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the holding of parliamentary elections last spring, but it regretted that other provisions of that resolution, mainly the disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, had yet to be implemented.
Through a statement (S/PRST/2006/3) read out by the Council President for the month, Augustine P. Mahiga (United Republic of Tanzania), the Council also regretted that the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) concerning the extension of Government control over all Lebanese territory and the holding of free and fair Lebanese presidential elections without foreign interference and influence had not yet been implemented.
At the same time, the 15-member body condemned the continued terrorist attacks in Lebanon, as part of a deliberate strategy to destabilize the country and intimidate the Lebanese people, their Government and the media. It warned that those responsible for such crimes must be held fully accountable and would not be permitted to jeopardize Lebanon's stability, democracy and national unity.
Welcoming the second semi-annual report of the Secretary-General of 26 October 2005 on implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), the Council noted with concern, however, the suggestion that there had been movements of arms and people into Lebanese territory. It commended that Government for undertaking measures against such movements, and it called on the Syrian Government to undertake similar measures.
Also commending the Lebanese Government's efforts for the dialogue it initiated in October 2005, for the steps taken to fully restore its authority throughout its territory and for its stated willingness to demarcate its border with Syria, the Council called on the Government to sustain progress on all issues, in accordance with resolution 1559 (2004). It called on the other parties concerned, particularly the Government of Syria, to cooperate towards that goal.
The meeting began at 4:11 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:19 p.m.
The complete text of presidential statement S/PRST/2006/3 reads as follows:
"The Security Council recalls all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 1559 (2004), 425 and 426 (1978), resolution 520 (1982) and resolution 1614 (2005), as well as the statements of its president on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000, of 19 October 2004 and of 4 May 2005.
"The Security Council reaffirms its strong support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon, as well as for the freedom of its press.
"The Security Council welcomes the Second semi-annual Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council of 26 October 2005 on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004).
"The Security Council notes that significant further progress has been made towards the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), in particular through the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the holding of free and credible parliamentary elections in May and June 2005, but it notes also with regret that other provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) have yet to be implemented, particularly the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory, and free and fair presidential elections conducted according to the Lebanese constitutional rules, without foreign interference and influence.
"In this context, the Security Council commends the Lebanese Government for the dialogue it has initiated in October 2005 with representatives of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, for the steps it has taken towards restoring fully its authority throughout its territory and for its stated willingness to establish full diplomatic relations and representation and to demarcate the border between Lebanon and Syria. The Council calls on the Lebanese Government to sustain its efforts to achieve progress on all these issues in accordance with resolution 1559 (2004) and to pursue a broad national dialogue, and the Council calls on all other parties concerned, in particular the Government of Syria, to cooperate to this end.
"The Security Council notes with concern the report's suggestion that there have been movements of arms and people into Lebanese territory and, in this context, commends the Government of Lebanon for undertaking measures against such movements and calls on the Government of Syria to undertake similar measures.
"The Security Council condemns the continued terrorist attacks in Lebanon, which have resulted in the death or injury of scores of Lebanese citizens, including several prominent Lebanese figures, as part of a deliberate strategy to destabilize the country and to intimidate the Lebanese people, their Government and their media.
"The Security Council warns that those responsible for such crimes must be held fully accountable and will not be permitted to jeopardize the stability, democracy and national unity of Lebanon.
"The Security Council reiterates its call for the full implementation of all requirements of resolution 1559 (2004), and urges all concerned parties to cooperate fully with the Security Council and the Secretary-General to achieve this goal.
"The Security Council commends the Secretary-General as well as his Special Envoy for their efforts and dedication to facilitate and assist in the implementation of all provisions of resolution 1559 (2004)."
When the Council met today to consider the situation in the Middle East, it had before it the Secretary-General's second semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) (document S/2005/673).
[Adopted in September 2004, resolution 1559 reiterated the Council's strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, calling upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Council. It also defined a number of operational requirements including the withdrawal of all remaining foreign forces from Lebanon; the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias; the extension of the control of Lebanon's Government over all Lebanese territory; and strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of its Government throughout Lebanon.]
Reflecting continued instability and volatility, Lebanon has been subjected to 14 bombings within one year since last October, the report states. Such acts of terror and intimidation, which form a pattern of onslaught, not only against Lebanese citizens, but also against the principles of a democratic, open society, must stop. Terror, however, in the form of bombings, assassinations, and attempted murders, has not succeeded in destabilising Lebanon, jeopardizing the holding of free and credible parliamentary elections or undermining its national unity nor political independence.
The parties have made considerable progress towards the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) since the Secretary-General's April report, he says. The requirements of the withdrawal of Syrian troops and military assets, as well as of the conduct of free and credible legislative elections have been met. Progress has also been made through ongoing work on broader electoral reforms. The issue of the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias is now under discussion in an internal dialogue among the Lebanese, and between the Lebanese and the Palestinians. The Secretary-General is encouraged by his dialogue with Lebanon's Government on the extension of its control over all of Lebanon's territory. Tangible results are yet to be achieved in these two fields.
In the aftermath of Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon, the redefinition of the relationship between the two historically close neighbours has only just begun, the Secretary-General states. A formalization of ties in the coming period will be of great significance and will manifest the progress the parties are continuing to make towards the full restoration and respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.
Complications have also arisen from the lack of a clearly agreed upon and demarcated border between Lebanon and Syria, highlighting the need for a formal border agreement and demarcation of that border on the ground between the two countries, the report adds. There were not only difficulties regarding the verification of the full Syrian withdrawal; there have also been difficulties related to the control of the borderline between Lebanon and Syria, and the issue of the illegal transfer of arms and people towards armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon. A formalization of bilateral relations would contribute significantly to alleviate such concerns. The Secretary-General welcomes Prime Minister Seniora's 17 October statement that he favours the establishment of mutual diplomatic missions and that bilateral talks on the issue should resume as soon as possible.
"Lebanon is witnessing a momentous transition", the Secretary-General says. Events in the country since 3 September 2004 have led the Lebanese people to pierce a wall of silence and speak out loudly and clearly. Taboos of the past have been broken, and matters previously too sensitive to discuss openly are now the subject of open debate. Over the past six months, with the first parliamentary elections held after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and the formation of a new Government, Lebanon has entered a new phase in its history, a phase that has the potential for Lebanon to finally leave behind a tragic past, to unite, and to shape a new future of self-determination, independence, coexistence and peace.
All parties require tolerance and time for adjustment to the new circumstances, the report adds. In that context, it is a positive development that the Lebanese authorities and the international community, through the Core Group on Lebanon, have begun working together to implement the Lebanese Government's planned political, economic and institutional reforms, with the aim of promoting stability in Lebanon and the region as a whole. The Secretary-General was greatly concerned when, shortly after the withdrawal of Syrian troops, military assets and the intelligence apparatus, Syria closed its border with Lebanon to Lebanese truck drivers, with considerable effects on the Lebanese economy.
The Lebanese Armed Forces now have to show that they can maintain effective security throughout the country at a time when the army's size is being reduced significantly. In this regard, the Secretary-General noted positively an increase in operations and more visible presence of the Lebanese armed forces at the beginning of 2005, in the context of parliamentary elections in the south. He also noted an increased presence of Lebanese armed forces in areas where there are armed Palestinian groups. More needs to be done, however, to meet the Council's call for concrete measures to ensure the return of effective governmental authority throughout the south of Lebanon, including through the deployment of additional Lebanese armed forces and the extension of governmental control throughout all of Lebanon.
In the aftermath of the withdrawal of Syrian military and intelligence presence, the Lebanese security and intelligence services need to regain public confidence, the report says. While it will take years to accomplish the full transition to a new security and intelligence service environment, a start has been made. And while an internal dialogue on the issue of the arms of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militia has begun, a number of concerns remain. The existence of armed groups defying the control of the legitimate Government, which by definition is vested with a monopoly on the use of force throughout its territory, is incompatible with the restoration and full respect of the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.
Noting his encouragement by the design of a formal mechanism of internal dialogue on the issue of the arms of Palestinian militias in Lebanon, and the historic meeting between Prime Minister Seniora and President Abbas, the Secretary-General says he strongly supports the formalization of Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue through creation of a regular bilateral committee leading to formal diplomatic relations. Although important progress has been made, he will continue to assign the matter of the full restoration of Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence the highest priority.
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