July 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2009
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
A Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1701, which in 2006 called for an end to the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, is due at the end of June. Council consultations are expected in early July. The focus of Council attention is likely to be the political situation in Lebanon following the recent parliamentary elections. It is still unclear whether the Council would take action following discussions on the report, but at press time it seemed unlikely.

Key Recent Developments
Lebanese legislative elections were held on 7 June. The “March 14 Alliance” led by Saad Hariri, the son of slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, won a majority of seats in parliament (71 of 128) against the opposition “March 8 Coalition” led by Hezbollah. Polling was quiet with a high turnout, but there were charges of vote-buying. The opposition quickly conceded. Hezbollah said on 10 June that it was ready to open a new page in its relation with the March 14 alliance; but that it would wait to see what it has to offer before joining the government (Hezbollah’s boycott of the government had previously led to a deep political crisis in Lebanon). On 25 June the Shi’a speaker of parliament, Nabih Berry, was re-elected. On 27 June Saad Hariri was appointed prime minister.

On 8 June Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Lebanon on the peaceful conduct of elections and called on all Lebanese to respect the results. He said he looked forward to the full consolidation of Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability, unity and political independence in accordance with Council resolutions.

Another positive development for implementation of resolution 1701 was Israel’s handing over to the UN on 12 May data on cluster munitions fired over southern Lebanon in 2006.

On 7 May the Secretary-General’s special envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, Terje Rød-Larsen, briefed the Council following his latest report. He said that reconciliation efforts among Lebanese factions had created a favourable environment for strengthening sovereignty while relations with Syria were improving. He expressed concern at the continuous porous nature of the Syrian-Lebanese border. Recurrent security incidents highlighted the proliferation of weapons and armed groups in Lebanon. In addition, there had been a growing concern that Hezbollah had engaged in militant activities beyond Lebanese territory.

In May and June the Lebanese authorities arrested 35 Lebanese nationals on charges of spying for Israel. The government sent several letters to the Council complaining that Israeli spy networks inside Lebanon violated resolution 1701.

Options
One option is for the Council to remain silent.

Another option is to welcome the 1701 report in a presidential statement and:

  • congratulate Lebanon on the elections, express hope that the government will be formed soon and will commit to implementing Council resolutions;
  • ask the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) to undertake a new field visit and report back to the Council, or alternatively reiterate the need for full implementation of its previous recommendations regarding enhanced Syrian-Lebanese border control; and
  • urge all parties to make more efforts to implement resolution 1701, in particular for Israel to pull out from Ghajar and stop its overflights; for Lebanese factions to resume national dialogue and address Hezbollah’s weapons; for Syria to make more efforts toward border delineation; and for Syria, Lebanon and Israel to engage in discussions on the status of the Sheb’a Farms.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether Lebanese factions will agree on a cabinet composition. The opposition hopes for a national unity government, preserving the current arrangement which provides it with veto power, as enshrined in the Doha Agreement of May 2008. The veto formula seems opposed by the March 14 Alliance, but to avoid political confrontation a further national unity government is a possible outcome. The issue therefore is whether Hariri would agree to the former veto arrangement or whether a new compromise solution will be explored. It also remains to be seen whether Hezbollah will show flexibility (the Christian party of Michel Aoun, belonging to the opposition, seems to consider veto power a condition for participation in the government). The Council is likely to closely follow these developments because a stalled situation could reinstitute the political crisis witnessed in 2007 and 2008.

More generally, a key question for the Council at this point is whether making pronouncements on the current political process, with or without specific language relating to implementation of resolution 1701, would have any added value.

Council Dynamics
The US and France both seem satisfied with the current state of political process. While they strongly support full implementation of resolutions 1701 and 1559 (which in 2004 urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon) they continue to remain cautious about not interfering in Lebanese politics through Council pronouncements.

US policy continues to be based on support for the president and the March 14 Alliance. However, the US seems to prefer at this time to project its support through discreet bilateral channels. US initiatives for major new Council statements seem unlikely.

Overall, Council members continue to believe that many elements of resolution 1701 have now been implemented (exchange of prisoners, renewed Syrian-Lebanese contacts, handing over of cluster munitions maps). Most members see the remaining issues (status of the Sheb’a Farms, Israeli occupation of Ghajar, disarmament of militias, delineation of the Syrian-Lebanese border) as intrinsically linked to progress on the broader regional picture, especially the Syrian-Israeli peace track. There are hopes that progress between Israel and Syria would allow movement on these issues and that the Council can now afford to be more relaxed. Nevertheless, all Council members remain committed to implementation of resolution 1701. All are also conscious of the large and costly UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). It has contributed to increased security (there have been no recent incidents), stabilisation and extension of Lebanese control over the whole territory.

It seems that the UN has had difficulties finding contributors for the maritime task force deployed along the Lebanese coast with the aim of curtailing arms smuggling. Although there are fears that UNIFIL ground forces will also find it difficult to find contributors because of European commitments in other parts of the world, core contributors France, Italy and Spain have so far remained committed to UNIFIL.

UN Documents

Selected Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1832 (27 August 2008) extended UNIFIL until 31 August 2009.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) strongly encouraged Syria to delineate its common border with Lebanon.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all militias, and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.

Selected Council Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/17 (22 May 2008) welcomed the Doha Agreement.
  • S/PRST/2008/8 (15 April 2008) was the latest statement on implementation of resolution 1701.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

Council Official Records

  • S/PV.6120 (7 May 2009) was a briefing by Terje Rød-Larsen on his latest 1559 report.

Selected Letters

  • S/2009/307 (11 June 2009) was a position paper by Lebanon on resolution 1701.
  • S/2009/293 (4 June 2009) was a letter from Lebanon on Israeli violations of Lebanese territorial integrity in May.
  • S/2009/287 (2 June 2009) was a letter from Lebanon informing the Council that Israel permitted Lebanese citizens suspected of spying for Israel to cross the Blue Line between the two countries, in violation of resolution 1701.
  • S/2009/264 (20 May 2009) was a letter from Lebanon saying that Israeli spying networks inside Lebanon were a violation of Lebanese sovereignty.
  • S/2009/227 (4 May 2009) was a letter from Syria on resolution 1559.

Other Relevant Facts

Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Michael Williams (UK)

Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Implementation of Resolution 1559

Terje Rød-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Major-General Claudio Graziano (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 May 2009

  • Authorised: 15,000 troops
  • Current: 12,158 military personnel.
  • Troop Contributors: Belgium, Brunei, China, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Norway, Poland (Poland announced in April that it would withdraw by October), Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Tanzania and Turkey

Cost

1 July 2008 – 30 June 2009: $680.93 million (A/C.5/62/30)

Useful Additional Sources

Full forecast

 

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