The Council is awaiting the Secretary-General’s recommendations on the delineation of the Lebanese border in the Sheb’a Farms area and the wider situation in Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701. The Secretary-General appointed a senior cartographer to determine the territorial definition of the Sheb’a Farms. A major focus by the Council on Lebanon can be expected in March. For details on the outstanding responsibilities of the various parties please see our Special Research Report on Resolution 1701, issued on 25 September 2006.
Key Recent Developments
Since late November, Lebanon has been beset by yet another political crisis. The current crisis originated with a request by Shi’a ministers from the pro-Syrian Hezbollah and Amal parties-along with their Maronite ally, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by Michel Aoun-to form a government of national unity in which they would have minority blocking power over cabinet decisions. They have boycotted the cabinet since talks with the anti-Syrian “March 14” government coalition collapsed. (Please see our December Forecast).
The cabinet has approved the status and constituting treaty of the international tribunal to try suspected perpetrators of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But the Syria-backed president, Emile Lahoud, has refused to sign the documents on the grounds that the cabinet session was illegitimate in the absence of Shi’a ministers. The agreement nevertheless was sent by the cabinet to the parliament for ratification; the President has no veto powers over legislation. Nabih Berri, the president of parliament and a member of the opposition, has blocked parliamentary sessions on the issue.
Critics say the pro-Syrian opposition is using the tribunal as leverage over the government to obtain more power. But for the anti-Syrian prime minister, Fouad Siniora, the opposition’s approval of the tribunal is a necessary condition for any agreement on other contentious issues.
The Arab League is mediating and making some progress, although there has been no breakthrough at press time.
The opposition began massive protests in Beirut on 1 December, pressuring Prime Minister Siniora to form a unity government or resign. On 18 December the opposition called for early parliamentary elections. There have been large pro-government rallies in other parts of the country.
On 12 December the Council adopted a presidential statement after receiving the latest Secretary-General’s report on the situation (please see our 8 December Update). The Council gave full support to the Siniora government and democratic institutions conforming to the constitution, and condemned efforts to destabilise Lebanon. It expressed deep concern at continuing Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and unverified reports of illegal movements of arms into Lebanon. The Council called on Syria to reinforce border controls and expressed its intention to consider further steps to implement the arms embargo. It expressed concern at unexploded ordnance specifically mentioning “cluster munitions” in southern Lebanon since last summer, and looked forward to further recommendations on the Sheb’a Farms issue. Finally, the Council asked the Secretary-General to report on a quarterly basis on implementation of resolution 1701 (the next report is now due 1 March 2007).
On 12 December the Council received the sixth report of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) on the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Chief Commissioner Serge Brammertz reported that the investigation was now far advanced but for legal reasons revealed few details. He noted that Syrian cooperation with the Commission had been “timely and efficient,” but that other states had been uncooperative. Brammertz’s appointment has been extended until 15 June 2007.
It is unlikely that the Council will consider action in January unless the political situation deteriorates or there are major incidents either involving arms smuggling or Israeli violations, in particular any incident relating to Israeli over-flights.
Council members are concerned about the political situation and want to play a positive role but, at this sensitive stage, do not want to be accused of engaging in any outside interference that could provide Hezbollah with additional arguments to oppose the March 14 coalition.
The issue of wider linkages among the various problems in the Middle East, as discussed by the Secretary-General in his briefing to the Council on 12 December, remains on the table. Whether incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will pursue the same approach remains an important question.
There is no consensus within the Council on how to address the Lebanese political crisis. France, the US and the UK seem inclined to go further by explicitly supporting the Siniora government. Russia and Qatar appear to be more reluctant.
The arrival of new members in January may shift Council dynamics. South Africa and Indonesia are expected to have a closer interest than their predecessors in Lebanon and the Middle East, including in engagement with Syria and Iran. South Africa, a strong voice within the Non-Aligned Movement, may be more vocal in rejecting outside involvement in Lebanon.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|Last Presidential Statement|
|Reports of the Secretary-General on Resolution 1701|
|Report of the Secretary-General on the Middle East|
|Last UNIIIC report|
|UNIIIC Chief Commissioner|
|Serge Brammertz (Belgium)|
|Secretary-General’s Personal Representative to Lebanon|
|Geir O. Pedersen (Norway)|
|UNIFIL Force Commander|
|Major-General Alain Pellegrini (France)|
|Size and Composition of UNIFIL|
|Cost (approved budget)|
|1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007 $97.58 million (gross): this amount does not yet take into account the financial implications of UNIFIL’s expansion.|
Useful Additional Sources
Lebanon at a Tripwire, International Crisis Group, Middle East Briefing No. 20, 21 December 2006.