Expected Council Action
In April Council members are expecting a briefing from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen in informal consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on resolution 1559. The discussion is likely to focus on disarmament and border issues. But at press time it seemed unlikely that the Council would take any formal action.
Key Recent Developments
At press time it seemed likely that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri would hold a second meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in April to discuss strengthening cooperation on a number of issues, including borders.
On 16 March, Robert Ford, US Ambassador-Designate to Syria, said that both the US and Syria agree that Lebanon should exercise sovereign authority over all its territory but remained far apart on how best to achieve this goal. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on 24 February said that the US position remained that Syria should “end interference in Lebanon and the transport or provision of weapons to Hezbollah…and generally, to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran”.
On 25 February, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hosted a public dinner with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
On 12 March UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams briefed the Council on Lebanon. Williams welcomed Lebanon’s efforts toward developing a comprehensive border strategy and hoped that improved Lebanese-Syrian relations would contribute to effective border management. Williams expressed the UN position that disarmament should be addressed by a Lebanese-led political process.
On 9 March Lebanon resumed its national dialogue which is expected to continue on 15 April with a focus on defence issues. (A February 2010 poll by the Beirut Center for Research and Information found that 84 percent of Lebanese believe Hezbollah is a deterrent to Israeli attacks.)
In December 2009 Lebanon issued a ministerial declaration, article 6 of which effectively allows Hezbollah to remain armed, citing its resistance role.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, authorised by resolution 1757 to investigate the Hariri assassination, released its first annual report on 6 March. There have been no indictments but the report noted “significant progress towards building a case which will bring perpetrators to justice”.
On 5 March a letter from Syria to the Council said “that the real obstacle to border delineation is continued Israeli occupation of the occupied Syrian Golan and the Sheb’a Farms”.
A key issue is that Hezbollah has rearmed since the end of the 2006 war with Israel. Related issues include border control and arms smuggling in violation of the arms embargo. In this context the resumption of Lebanon’s national dialogue will be on Council members’ minds along with the issue of what role if any the Council can play supporting it.
Another issue is whether and when the Council should consider revisiting resolution 1559. A related question is that in December 2009 according to media reports Syria asked Lebanon to seek the revision of the 1559 mandate. A key dimension of this issue is whether Council members yet feel confident that sufficient progress on border security is being made.
A third issue is whether there are still obligations under resolution 1559 to be implemented. Syria maintains that it met its obligations when it withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. Many Council members take a wider view of resolution 1559.
Other options include:
welcoming the Secretary-General’s report and reemphasising that resolution 1559 remains to be fully implemented;
acknowledging areas where there has been progress in implementing resolution 1559, including Lebanon’s relaunch of the national dialogue;
encouraging further cooperation between Lebanon and Syria on other areas relevant to implementation of 1559, in particular regarding border control and delineation; and
encouraging the Secretary-General to reenergise his good offices to continue assisting with border delineation, in particular Sheb’a Farms.
Most Council members seem to agree that there is still a need for movement on two major outstanding 1559 issues—disarmament and borders—but recognise that progress is only likely in the context of a Lebanese domestic political dialogue. In that regard, they view the resumption of the national dialogue as a positive development.
Most Council members, including Lebanon, see value in the 1559 process continuing.
The Council decided to bring forward consideration of the 1559 report to April from May to avoid the possible perception of a conflict of interest since Lebanon has the presidency of the Council in May.
This will be the second time Lebanon is discussed by the Council since the country joined as an elected member (the first being the 12 March 1701 consultations). Some Council members feel Lebanon’s presence has brought a stronger sense of seriousness to the discussion.
France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.
Selected Council Resolutions
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports