Council members are expecting a briefing from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on developments in implementation of resolution 1559 . This resolution, adopted in 2004, urged the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory.
Discussion is likely to focus on the ongoing disarmament challenge and related border security issues, including developments in bilateral relations between Lebanon and Syria. At press time, it seemed unlikely that the Council would take any formal action.
Council members will also have in mind developments relating to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Key Recent Developments
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem on 27 September and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on 24 September in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly. Both meetings reportedly focused on a comprehensive approach to the Middle East. Previously, US Special Envoy George Mitchell met with Sleiman in Beirut on 17 September following talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Mitchell was reportedly holding preliminary consultations on a comprehensive regional peace, covering the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.
On 23 September Lebanese President Sleiman addressed the Security Council during its high-level meeting saying the Council should take greater responsibility for Middle East issues—in particular, holding Israel accountable for its actions.
Also on 23 September, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams commended Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s 21 September cabinet statement that all political parties should resort to dialogue and protect state institutions. The cabinet meeting was called by Hariri to cool tensions related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and recent armed clashes. (Saad Hariri is the son of slain former premier Rafiq Hariri.)
Regarding the Tribunal, tensions were heightened by accusations from the former head of Lebanese security, Jamil al-Sayyed, that he had been detained on unfounded allegations in relation to the 2005 Hariri assassination. Also at issue was the 2011 budget, which includes Lebanon’s contribution to the Tribunal.
Sayyed was one of the four generals held for four years in connection with the Hariri assassination and released in April 2009. Subsequently, Sayyed requested access to the evidence leading to his detention. Whether Sayyed will be allowed access to his criminal file held by the Tribunal will be determined after 1 October, the deadline set by the Tribunal to receive further information on whether granting such access would compromise the ongoing investigation.
In a 16 September meeting of a parliamentary budget committee Hezbollah members blocked progress on Lebanon’s contribution toward the Tribunal. (Lebanon is obligated to provide 49 percent of the Tribunal’s expenses, and with indictments expected by year’s end, the 2011 budget has increased.)
In a 6 September interview with the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat Hariri said, “We made mistakes and accused Syria of assassinating the martyred premier. This was a political accusation.” He also said that “false witnesses” misled the investigation into his father’s assassination, harming Lebanese-Syrian relations. Observers note, however, that Hariri remains supportive of the Tribunal’s independence.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has made several speeches regarding the Tribunal in recent months. On 24 August Nasrallah said that it was Lebanon’s right to know the identity of “false witnesses.” On 9 August he claimed Israel was implicated in the Hariri assassination. Subsequently the Tribunal requested that any evidence of Israeli involvement be provided to it. On 22 July Nasrallah said he expected that the Tribunal would indict some Hezbollah members in relation to the assassination. He denied any involvement by Hezbollah and charged that the Tribunal had been politicised.
On 17 September, Russia confirmed the sale of cruise missiles to Syria. Israel has concerns that such missiles might be smuggled into Lebanon for Hezbollah’s use.
On 3 September there was an explosion in a building in Shehabiyeh in southern Lebanon. Media reports indicate the building might have been used by Hezbollah to store weapons. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is investigating, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.
On 30 August the Security Council renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for a further year. Resolution 1937 included strengthened references to the Blue Line, UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, Ghajar and the arms embargo.
On 24 August there were clashes in Beirut between Hezbollah and Al-Ahbash (a pro-Syrian Sunni Islamist group) that resulted in three deaths. Both parties issued statements that the clashes were not politically motivated but rather the result of a personal dispute.
On 19 August, Lebanon held the eleventh session of its national dialogue; defence issues were placed on the agenda. The next session is expected on 19 October.
On 30 July, Assad and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited Beirut. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was reportedly among the topics discussed.
On 18 July, Lebanon and Syria signed 17 new bilateral agreements on a range of security and economic issues. However, no agreement was reached on border delineation.
On 7 July, Israel alleged it had found further evidence of Hezbollah weapons caches in the village of Khiam. On 14 July Williams said that UNIFIL had no evidence of Hezbollah weaponry in the south.
In April, Israel alleged that Syria had smuggled scud missiles to Hezbollah, which Lebanon and Syria denied. In early May, UNIFIL said that it had not seen any scud missiles in its area of operations.
A key issue is that Hezbollah has rearmed since the end of the 2006 war with Israel. The numerous reports of the presence of weapons outside governmental control will be on Council members’ minds. These incidents highlight a lack of progress on meeting resolution 1559’s requirements on disarmament and raise questions regarding arms smuggling.
Another issue is whether the Council might revisit resolution 1559. Some of its outstanding elements are also covered in resolution 1701. Syria maintains that it met its 1559 obligations when it withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. However, some Council members take a wider view of resolution 1559—a key dimension is sufficient progress on Lebanese/Syrian border security.
Hezbollah maintains significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701. Some justify this in light of the ongoing Israeli occupation of portions of Lebanese territory—particularly the Sheb’a Farms. (In December 2009 Lebanon issued a ministerial declaration, article 6 of which effectively allows Hezbollah to remain armed, citing its resistance role.)
Another problematic area is in the delineation of the Lebanon/Syria border, on which progress has been very slow.
Other options include:
reemphasising that resolution 1559 remains to be fully implemented;
encouraging further cooperation between Lebanon and Syria on other areas relevant to implementation of 1559, in particular border control and delineation;
encouraging the Secretary-General to reenergise his good offices to continue assisting with border delineation, in particular Sheb’a Farms; and
reinforcing the positive trend associated with the national dialogue and urging a reduction in inflammatory rhetoric.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is independent. Council members will want to respect that and monitor the impact on Lebanon’s political environment as the indictment phase approaches. (There is provision for a Council role in the case of non-cooperation with the Tribunal.)
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 the Lebanese political dialogue is the key to progress. In that regard, the ongoing national dialogue is seen as a positive trend—albeit one that has yet to produce tangible results.
Most Council members anticipate increased tension in Lebanon as indictments from the Tribunal approach and are watching developments closely.
Council members are concerned by escalated rhetoric in Lebanon but are encouraged by the efforts of both Lebanese and regional leaders in maintaining a stable political climate in the country.
France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.
Selected Council Resolutions
Selected Security Council Meeting Record
Selected Secretary-General’s Reports
Useful Additional Source
Special Tribunal for Lebanon www.stl-tsl.org