Press Releases

    SC/8299
    31 January 2005

    Security Council Condemns Violence along Blue Line Between Israel and Lebanon, Extends Mandate of UNIFIL until 31 July

    Resolution 1583 (2005) Adopted Unanimously

    NEW YORK, 28 January (UN Headquarters) -- Gravely concerned at persistent tension and violence along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel, the Security Council today condemned all acts of violence, including recent incidents across that Line that resulted in the killing and wounding of United Nations military observers, and extended, until 31 July, the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

    Through the unanimous adoption of resolution 1583 (2005), the Council expressed great concern about the serious breaches and the sea, land and continuing air violations of the Blue Line.  It urged the parties to put an end to the violations, refrain from any act or provocation that could further escalate the tension, and abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of the Interim Force and other United Nations personnel. The text was sponsored by Denmark, France, Greece, Romania, United Kingdom and the United States.

    The Council supported UNIFIL’s continued efforts to maintain the ceasefire along the withdrawal line, but expressed its intention to review the Force’s mandate and structures at the end of the present mandate, for which it requested the Secretary-General to make recommendations, taking into account the situation on the ground, the activities actually performed by the Force in its area of operation and its contribution towards the remaining task of restoring international peace and security.

    Speaking after the vote, France’s representative said that the revived violence along the Blue Line had had serious consequences, including, most recently, the death of a French officer.  He condemned the violence and called on the parties to exercise the utmost restraint, saying it was their responsibility to ensure respect for the withdrawal line, in its entirety.  In keeping with the present demands of the United Nations, Lebanon must extend its authority throughout the south, particularly by expanding and deploying its forces and by disarming the militias.  At a time when encouraging prospects had emerged for Middle East peace, everything must be done to move towards regional stability.

    Also explaining her position, the United States’ representative said that UNIFIL played a critical role in attempting to maintain stability in southern Lebanon, with one remaining mandate to fulfil –- the restoration of international peace and security.  Hezbollah remained a persistent source of violence and an obstacle to the fulfilment of UNIFIL’s final mandate.  Yet, the Lebanese Government continued to condone Hezbollah operations launched from its territory, even those which showed a complete disregard for the Blue Line.  The Government’s assertion that the Blue Line was not valid in the Shab’a farms area was not compatible with Security Council resolutions and, in any case, was no excuse for allowing Hezbollah to engage in violations across the Line.

    Lebanon’s representative, who had been invited to participate in the discussion, said his delegation appreciated the hard work undertaken and the sacrifices made by UNIFIL in order to ensure peace and security in the region.  The Force must remain in place, carrying out its tasks without any review or change whatsoever.  However, it would have been desirable to have had a technical text extending UNIFIL’s mandate without selectively highlighting passages from the Secretary-General’s current report or adding political elements.  Those elements could have adverse effects on peace and security, he warned.

    Statements were also made by the representatives of Algeria, Brazil, Japan, China, Russian Federation, Greece and Argentina.

    The meeting was called to order at 4:12 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:41 p.m.

    Council Resolution

    “The Security Council,

    “Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, including resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978 and 1553 (2004) of 29 July 2004, as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),

    “Recalling further the letter from its President to the Secretary-General of 18 May 2001 (S/2001/500),

    “Recalling also the Secretary-General’s conclusion that, as of 16 June 2000, Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with resolution 425 (1978) and met the requirements defined in the Secretary-General’s report of 22 May 2000 (S/2000/460), as well as the Secretary-General’s conclusion that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had essentially completed two of the three parts of its mandate, focusing now on the remaining task of restoring international peace and security,

    “Gravely concerned at the persistence of tension and violence along the Blue Line,

    “Emphasizing once again the interim nature of UNIFIL,

    “Recalling its resolution 1308 (2000) of 17 July 2000,

    “Recalling also its resolution 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000,

    “Recalling further the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted on 9 December 1994,

    “Responding to the request of the Government of Lebanon to extend the mandate of UNIFIL for a new period of six months presented in the letter from its Permanent Representative to the United Nations of 11 January 2005 to the Secretary-General (S/2005/13), while reaffirming that the Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for the purpose of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 and that the Blue Line must be respected in its entirety,

    “Expressing its concern over the tensions and potential for escalation as noted in the Secretary-General’s report of 20 January (S/2005/36),

    “1. Endorses the report of the Secretary-General on UNIFIL of 20 January (S/2005/36);

    “2. Decides to extend the present mandate until 31 July 2005;

    “3. Reiterates its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries and under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon;

    “4. Calls upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it;

    “5. Calls on the parties to ensure UNIFIL is accorded full freedom of movement throughout its area of operation as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, and requests UNIFIL to report any obstruction it may face in the discharge of its mandate;

    “6. Reiterates its call on the parties to continue to fulfil the commitments they have given to respect fully the entire withdrawal line identified by the United Nations, as set out in the Secretary-General’s report of 16 June 2000 (S/2000/590), to exercise utmost restraint and to cooperate fully with the United Nations and UNIFIL;

    “7. Condemns all acts of violence, including the recent incidents across the Blue Line that have resulted in the killing and wounding of United Nations military observers, expresses great concern about the serious breaches and the sea, land and continuing air violations of the withdrawal line, and urges the parties to put an end to these violations, to refrain from any act or provocation that could further escalate the tension and to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of the UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel;

    “8. Supports the continued efforts of UNIFIL to maintain the ceasefire along the withdrawal line through mobile patrols and observation from fixed positions and through close contacts with the parties to correct violations, resolve incidents and prevent their escalation, while stressing the primary responsibility of the parties in this regard;

    “9. Welcomes the continued contribution of UNIFIL to operational mine clearance, encourages further assistance in mine action by the United Nations to the Government of Lebanon in support of both the continued development of its national mine action capacity and clearance of the remaining mine/UXO threat in the south, commends donor countries for supporting these efforts through financial and in-kind contributions and encourages further international contributions, and stresses the necessity for provision to the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL any additional existing maps and minefield records;

    “10. Requests the Secretary-General to continue consultations with the Government of Lebanon and other parties directly concerned on the implementation of this resolution and to report thereon to the Council before the end of the present mandate, as well as on the activities of UNIFIL and the tasks presently carried out by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO);

    “11. Expresses its intention to review the mandate and structures of UNIFIL at the end of the present mandate and requests the Secretary-General, following appropriate consultations, including with the Lebanese Government, to include in his report recommendations in this regard, taking into account the prevailing situation on the ground, the activities actually performed by the Force in its area of operation and its contribution towards the remaining task of restoring international peace and security;

    “12. Looks forward to the early fulfilment of the mandate of UNIFIL;

    “13. Stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973.”

    Explanations of Vote

    MICHEL DUCLOS (France) said that UNIFIL had made an indispensable contribution to stability and security in the region.  The persistence of violent incidents and violations of the Blue Line had emphasized the need for UNIFIL’s presence in the field.  That revived violence had serious consequences, including, most recently, the death of a French officer who was serving the observer mission.  He condemned the violence and called on the parties to exercise the utmost restraint.  He also condemned any Blue Line violation, whether by earth or air.  It was the parties’ responsibility to take the necessary measures to ensure respect for that Line, in its entirety, and to prevent any violations.  The Blue Line remained the agreed reference point for the international community.

    He said that, in keeping with the present demands of the United Nations, Lebanon must extend its authority throughout the south, in particular, by expanding and deploying its forces and by disarming the militias.  At a time when encouraging prospects had appeared for the Middle East peace process, everything must be done to move in the direction of regional stability.

    ANNE WOODS PATTERSON (United States) said her delegation had voted in favour of the text and agreed that UNIFIL continued to play a critical role in attempting to maintain stability in southern Lebanon, and it also found that the resolution reflected the continued concern of the international community about the persistent sources of instability in the area.  The United States would reiterate that peace and security along the Blue Line served the interests of both sides, and would urge again that calm and restraint prevail.

    She recalled that the Secretary-General had affirmed that UNIFIL had essentially completed three of its mandates, with its one remaining mandate being the restoration of international peace and security. The United States remained concerned by what the Secretary-General had termed “disturbing” activities of Hezbollah in the area.  As all had seen with the incidents of 9 and 17 January, which had resulted in the unfortunate loss of life on both sides, Hezbollah remained a persistent source of violence and an obstacle to the fulfilment of UNIFIL’s final mandate.

    Yet, the Lebanese Government continued to condone Hezbollah operations launched from its territory, even those which showed a complete disregard for the Blue Line, she continued.  As the Secretary-General’s recent report reaffirmed, the continually asserted position of the Lebanese Government that the Blue Line was not valid in the Shab’a farms area was not compatible with Security Council resolution and, in any case, was no excuse for allowing Hezbollah to engage in violations across that Line.  Further, it was incumbent upon that Government to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority over all of its territory, up to the Blue Line, consistent with Council resolutions.  As evidenced by the rocket attacks launched from Lebanese territory by rogue elements last October and November, the failure of the Lebanese Government to deploy its armed forces in sufficient numbers to ensure calm throughout the area posed a grave threat to peace and security there.

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said he had joined others in the unanimous adoption of the text after his concerns had been “mostly” taken into account by the country that had prepared the original draft.  He thanked the delegation for its flexibility.  The negotiations had been rather difficult because of efforts to introduce political elements, which were not appropriate in a text of that nature.  Algeria attached the greatest importance to UNIFIL’s continued mission in Lebanon and to the integrity of its mandate.  It was only the total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories that could lead to a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

    RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said his country fully supported UNIFIL’s important role in southern Lebanon, in conformity with its mandate of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces and restoring international peace and security.  The Secretary-General, in preparing his recommendations on UNIFIL’s mandate and structure, as envisaged in operative paragraph 11 of the text, should take into account the views of the Lebanese Government.  He was gravely concerned about the persistent tensions, hostile rhetoric and skirmishes, some with a deadly result, along the Blue Line.  He regretted those continuing events, notwithstanding repeated appeals by the Council and the Secretary-General.

    He called on both parties to fully comply with the provisions of all relevant Council resolutions.  He expected Israel to fully respect Lebanon’s territorial integrity and sovereignty by avoiding incursions into Lebanese air space, as such actions were destabilizing and provocative.  The Government in Beirut must do more to exert effective authority and control over the southern part of its territory and to reassess the positions of its deployed forces.  Both parties should ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, and they must do their utmost to prevent violent incidents from taking place again.  He stood in solidarity with France upon the loss of two of its nationals.

    SHINICHI KITAOKA (Japan) said his country attached great importance to the role of UNIFIL and believed that the text adopted today was a balanced reflection of the language included in the Council’s past resolutions on the matter.  Still, Japan upheld the basic position that all peacekeeping missions should be under constant review, particularly with regard to their mandates and structures, in light of the changing nature of peace-building activities and increasing demand for such missions.  The same held true for UNIFIL, he said, adding that Japan hoped the Council would continue to examine ways to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency.

    ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that since its inception, UNIFIL had played an important role in lowering tensions in the region.  China supported the text adopted today even though it had not been entirely satisfactory.  His country appealed to the parties to implement their commitments, and exercise restraint along the Blue Line.  China also noted that there had been recent progress in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, and reiterated that Lebanon-Israeli talks were an important part of overall peace in the Middle East.  His country would urge both Lebanon and Israel to strive to reach consensus to achieve just and durable peace at an early date.

    ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that throughout the history of the Interim Force, its mandate had always been unanimously extended, and he had not wanted to disrupt that tradition or create a precedent of not having unanimous votes on mandate extensions.  But, the decision taken by the Council had not been fully satisfactory.  The resolution was “too politicized” and geared, not so much to enhancing the nature of the United Nations operation in southern Lebanon, but more towards bringing pressure to bear and obliging it to find solutions to questions which, given the overall Middle East situation, it simply could not solve. 

    He said that, in order to make the text less politicized, he had introduced a number of amendments at the expert level to make it more balanced, and he had made a further effort in recent consultations to introduce a small change that would have had the same effect.  Unfortunately, his suggestions had not been accepted.  The current UNIFIL mandate was fully acceptable to his Government; he saw no reason to change it.  But, a discussion of reviewing the Force’s mandate and structure should fall to the expertise of the Secretary-General, his reading of the situation in the region, and the views of the Lebanese Government.

    Solving the problems in southern Lebanon was impossible without a comprehensive Middle East settlement covering “all tracks”, he stressed.  Without Syria and Lebanon, it was not possible to achieve a solid peace in the region, which was based on the well known resolutions of the Security Council, the Madrid principles, land for peace, and the Arab peace initiative approved in 2002 at the Beruit Summit of the League of Arab States. 

    ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece) emphasized the spirit of cooperation that had prevailed in the draft’s preparation.  Its unanimous adoption had proved the Council’s view that the situation that prevailed on that front still threatened peace and security in the region.  The increased number of peace operations worldwide with their expanded range of activities had created an urgent need for reviewing the operations’ structures, in order to achieve greater operational efficiency through limited resources.  That review, however, should be carried out in accordance with objective criteria and existing conditions on the ground, as defined by factors of substance and risk assessment.  The opinions and views of the host country also played an important role and should be considered.

    Speaking in his national capacity, current Council President CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said his delegation had voted in favour of the text and believed that its unanimous adoption had been necessary to ensure the mission’s continuity.  He stressed that UNIFIL must keep working towards peace and security in the region and towards preventing acts of violence along the Blue Line and in the immediate area.  Argentina believed that the text had developed in a favourable manner during the past few days of negotiation.

    The Council had recently expressed its concern over the violent incidents on 9 and 17 January, which had shown that despite a period of relative calm, tension between the parties remained very high.  Argentina would, therefore, reiterate its call to both parties to exercise the utmost restraint and to put aside their differences while implementing the objectives of all relevant Council resolutions.  Argentina would continue to lend its support to any efforts to ensure security.  He added that activities throughout the Middle East had broad implications on UNIFIL’s area of operation, which made it necessary to ensure a just and comprehensive peace not only along the Blue Line, but in the wider region.

    IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) said his delegation appreciated the hard work undertaken and the sacrifices made by UNIFIL in order to ensure peace and security in the region, and that his Government would stress that the mission must remain in place, carrying out its tasks without any review or change whatsoever.  However, he stressed that it would have been desirable to have a technical text extending UNIFIL’s mandate without selectively highlighting passages from the Secretary-General’s current report or the addition of political elements.  Those elements could have adverse effects on peace and security, he added.

    Background

    The Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), dated 20 January (document S/2005/36).  In the report, which covers developments since his previous report, dated 21 July 2004, the Secretary-General recommends a further six-month extension of UNIFIL’s mandate until 31 July, in light of prevailing conditions in the area.

    The report finds that, over the past six months, the Blue Line has enjoyed a prolonged period of relative quiet.  The Secretary-General had hoped that this situation would present an opportunity for achieving progress towards the objective of bringing international peace and security to southern Lebanon.  But, as has been demonstrated more than once over the past four years, and unfortunately again this month, significant periods of quiet along the Blue Line are often followed by several episodes of hostilities.  Furthermore, while violent incidents were considerably fewer than during the previous reporting period, tensions between the parties did not at any point appreciably diminish.  Hostile rhetoric remained the norm, and stability continued to be threatened, most dramatically by the incidents of 9 and 17 January, but also by rogue acts and, for the first time, air incursions from both sides.

    The resumption of military measures, for which Hezbollah took credit, asserting its claimed prerogative to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory by force, was disturbing, the report says.  The United Nations has made abundantly clear that no violations of the Blue Line are acceptable.  The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab’a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions.  The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978).  The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety.

    The Secretary-General says he was greatly troubled by the disregard for the safety and security of the unarmed United Nations military observers evidenced by the actions of the Israeli Defence Force on 9 January.  The UNIFIL established without a doubt that the observers were wearing the United Nations insignia and their blue berets.  While military necessity may demand prompt action in the face of an attack, the parties, in living up to their obligation to ensure the safety and security of United Nations personnel, should make every reasonable effort to be certain that United Nations personnel are not targeted.

    The report states further that the air violations also remained a matter of significant concern.  As long as Israel carries on with its policy of overflying Lebanon whenever it sees fit to do so, it risks provoking retaliatory acts from the Lebanese side.  In addition, the periodic sonic booms generated over population centres only generate animosity in the local populace.  While the lack of instances of anti-aircraft fire across the line during the reporting period must be noted and welcomed, Hezbollah’s launch of a drone into Israel was a regrettable development, an activity sure to raise tensions and to increase the prospects for military confrontation.  The Secretary-General wishes to remind all parties of the consistent position of the United Nations that there should be no air violations, a position that applies on both sides of the Blue Line.

    The rocket-firing incidents perpetrated by individuals allegedly affiliated with Palestinian militant factions demonstrated the volatility of the sector, the report says.  Importantly, none of the incidents resulted in a military escalation, and for this the parties and UNIFIL deserve credit.  Nevertheless, this type of incident poses a great risk to stability in the area.  The Lebanese Government continued to exercise the capacity it has demonstrated thus far to exert its security authority through various activities of the Joint Security Force, including prompt responses to specific incidents.  More needs to be done, however, to meet the Security Council’s call for extended measures to ensure the return of effective governmental authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of additional Lebanese armed forces.  Once again, the Secretary-General urges the Government to do its utmost to ensure calm and to exert full control over the use of force across its entire territory.

    The report says that, in both private and public forums, Israel and Lebanon have declared their desire to avoid confrontation.  At times, their actions have clearly supported those intentions.  The Secretary-General encourages the parties to live up to those stated aspirations and to do their utmost to adhere to a course favouring peace and security.  To that end, he reiterates the call upon all the parties to abide by their obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions, to fully respect the withdrawal line in its entirety and to exercise utmost restraint.

    Economic development of the south remains a pressing need and is inextricably linked to peace and security, the report says.  The Government, international donors, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations are urged to bolster their efforts towards the continued economic rehabilitation and development of the south.

    The report adds that UNIFIL will continue to contribute to the restoration of international peace and security by observing, monitoring and reporting on developments in its area of operation and liaising with the parties to maintain calm.  The Secretary-General’s Personal Representative will continue, in close consultation with other senior United Nations officials, to lend the political and diplomatic support of the United Nations to the parties to establish lasting peace and security in southern Lebanon.

    The Secretary-General again drew attention to the unpaid assessments for the funding of the Force, which amount to $47.1 million.  Eventually, this represents money owed to the Member States contributing the troops that make up the Force.  He appeals to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears.  He also expresses his gratitude to the Governments contributing troops to the Force for their understanding and patience.

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