Expected Council Action
The fifth semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559, due 19 April, was postponed because the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy Terje Røed-Larsen was in Syria with the Secretary-General. Consultations previously scheduled for 30 April were delayed. These are likely to take place in early May. A presidential statement is likely.
The Council is also likely in May to consider recommendations by the Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Nicolas Michel, on the next steps for the establishment of the special tribunal for the alleged murderers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others.
The Council also expects a report from the Secretary-General following the independent mission to assess monitoring of the Syrian-Lebanese border. This could lead the Council to consider further steps to implement the arms embargo.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Lebanon on 29 March and said that dialogue and compromise remained the key to national unity.
On 4 April, Ban Ki-moon received a memorandum from seventy Lebanese parliamentarians calling for a Chapter VII resolution to establish the tribunal for the alleged Hariri murderers, since its ratification by the parliament was still being blocked by the opposition. This was supported by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
On 17 April, the Council adopted a presidential statement sponsored by France, the UK, and the US:
reiterating concern at Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and “mounting information by Israel” of illegal movement of arms across the Syrian-Lebanese border;
supporting an independent mission to assess the monitoring of the border and report back to the Council before the next 1701 report due mid-June, and expressing its intention to consider reinforcing the arms embargo; and
expressing concern at statements by Hezbollah of various armed activities.
The statement touched upon all other 1701 issues, but the issue of political reconciliation received relatively limited space.
Following a request by opposition leader Nabih Berri, the Secretary-General sent Nicolas Michel to Lebanon on 17 April to offer legal assistance for the tribunal. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov, who also met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, was in Syria at the same time. Michel stated that it may become necessary for the Council to move to a Chapter VII resolution.
The Secretary-General met with President Al-Assad on 24 April. The Syrian president assured Ban of his cooperation in all matters relating to peace and security in the Middle East, including on border delineation with Lebanon. The Secretary-General noted that the basis for comprehensive peace in the Middle East involved an end to the occupation of Arab territory. He also said that it was important to establish the tribunal based on a national consensus, and that Syria could promote such consensus.
take up the outstanding political reconciliation issues (perhaps following up on the 1559 report), or wait until the next 1701 reporting period and combine relevant elements;
initiate a Chapter VII resolution establishing the tribunal, or wait until the next UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) reporting period (in June) to provide a last chance for a domestic parliamentary solution; or
after receiving the report on the border assessment mission, consider options for reinforcement of monitoring assistance.
The first issue is whether the 1559 report (and the Secretary-General’s observations following his visit to Syria) will suggest encouraging openings for Council action to reinforce the political negotiation track. There are some expectations that the report will clarify the key significance of the current political crisis in Lebanon for making progress on the disarmament process.
Another issue is whether to establish the tribunal under Chapter VII now, or whether there is still a chance for a domestic political solution. The Council’s credibility is at risk, along with rule of law in Lebanon. A resolution could provide the necessary impetus for ending the current standoff. However, a Chapter VII resolution could also upset the already fragile political balance.
Lengthy negotiations preceded the adoption of the April presidential statement. The draft was challenged by Russia, Congo, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. It seems that Russia was initially opposed to the border assessment mission, saying it was premature and could open a Pandora’s box of sanctions. The Secretary-General, in a letter, reassured Council members that the Lebanese government welcomed the idea and that the mission would be small and complete its work within a limited period of time.
There was much redrafting, especially on the issue of arms smuggling, to ensure an appropriately balanced text.
It seems unlikely that the Council is ready at this point to support a significant reinforcement of the arms embargo through an enhanced sanctions regime. Many, including Russia and Indonesia, would prefer an increase in technical assistance as a first step.
While France, the UK and the US may be ready to consider giving the tribunal a Chapter VII mandate, it is not clear whether Russia and Indonesia would support this option. They, and others, think it would further polarise the political crisis in Lebanon. They still hope the current standoff can be resolved through dialogue.
The new US Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, has identified Lebanon as one of his priorities and this is likely to influence Council dynamics to some extent, especially during the US presidency in May.
|Security Council Resolutions|
For other relevant facts, please refer to our April Forecast.
The Shi’a in the Arab World, Middle East Report, Spring 2007, No. 242
Restarting Israeli-Syrian Negotiations, International Crisis Group, Middle East Report No. 63, 10 April 2007