July 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2011
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In July Council members are expected to hold consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which in August 2006 called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel.  UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams is expected to brief.

The situation in southern Lebanon has not been as quiet as in previous reporting periods. And Council members will also have in mind the recent formation of a government and its potential effects for cooperation with UNIFIL and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Council members will also have in mind the current regional political climate and in particular effects on Lebanon and spill over effects from the crisis in Syria.

No formal action is expected. The UNIFIL mandate expires on 31 August.

Key Recent Developments
At press time, the Secretary-General’s report was expected on 30 June. It is expected to underscore that for most of the reporting period Lebanon was without a government which curtailed progress with Lebanon’s national dialogue, border issues and Ghajar. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has had to cope with two significant events during the reporting period: the 15 May al-Nakba protests and a 27 May attack on a UNFIL convoy. The report is also expected to track ongoing issues such as demarcation of the Blue Line, Israeli overflights and security along the line of buoys.

On 13 June Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced his cabinet in which 18 of the thirty seats go to two Hezbollah MPs and its allies. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s 14 March coalition did not join the new government. Key portfolios including defence, foreign affairs, justice and telecommunication ministries are held by Hezbollah-aligned ministers. (The previous Hariri-led government fell on 12 January when 11 Hezbollah-aligned ministers withdrew.) 

The immediate focus of the new government will be to agree on a ministerial statement which requires parliamentary approval (it seems the current government has a slight majority, 68 of 128 seats). Media reports indicate that policy is stalled on the issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Mikati has said there would be no radical shift in policy and the government would maintain close ties with other Arab states. Previously, he said that the future Lebanese government would respect international obligations, including resolution 1701. However, he has yet to comment specifically on Lebanon’s continued cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Analysts note that the Syrian crisis and expected Tribunal indictments may have influenced the recent cabinet formation. (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt on 9 June in Damascus and said a new Lebanese cabinet was essential to Lebanon’s stability.)

On 27 May the Council issued a press statement condemning an attack on a UNIFIL convoy. A bomb exploded on a road regularly travelled by UNIFIL injuring six Italian peacekeepers and two Lebanese civilians. (The last such attack was in January 2008.)

On 15 May it seems that Israeli forces killed 11 civilians and injured 130 when crowds of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon approached the Blue Line near Maroun al Ras in southern Lebanon during al-Nakba protests. Coordination between UNIFIL, Israeli and Lebanese forces effectively avoided a repeat event anticipated for 5 June, the anniversary of the 1967 war.

On 6 May the Tribunal’s prosecutor filed a second amendment to the original sealed indictment. Media reports indicate confirmation of the indictments may be ready very soon but any trial activity is unlikely until later in the year. Hezbollah has said it expects the indictments to implicate its members. (The indictments were a key factor in the Hariri government’s collapse in January.)

On 6 May, Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s 1559 report.  The discussion in consultations focused on the ongoing disarmament challenge and related border security issues, the then lack of a government and developments in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. It seems the Syrian situation was also brought up during consultations.

Key Issues
A key issue is how to get Israel and Lebanon to move from the status quo—a fragile cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire and permanent solution. But in the current climate progress seems more remote than ever. 

Related issues include the regular Israeli overflights and its occupation of Ghajar in violation of resolution 1701 and the fact that Hezbollah now maintains significant military capacity in violation of resolutions 1559 and 1701.

The issue of Sheb’a Farms also remains frozen.

Regarding the Tribunal, there are no immediate issues for the Council. However, if the expected Lebanese ministerial statement rejects cooperation with Tribunal the issue may come to the fore.

Options
The Council’s most likely option is to take no action, as has been the practice since April 2008 (the last time the Council issued a presidential statement on resolution 1701).  But, given the apprehension about the possible heightened spill over effects into Lebanon from the situation in Syria, a press statement is one possibility.

Council Dynamics
Council members agree that UNIFIL is an important stabilising factor between Israel and Lebanon—especially in light of the current developments in the region. Most realise that continued quiet in southern Lebanon may be the only achievable goal in the medium term. 

Most Council members agree that arms smuggling and disarmament remain key concerns but seem to accept that progress is only likely in the context of an inter-Lebanese dialogue and improvement on the Israel-Syria track, which at this juncture seems unlikely to yield progress any time soon. 

On the issue of the formation of a new Lebanese government, Council members clearly attach value to the fact that Lebanese constitutional process is being followed. Council members will be hoping for an explicit statement from Lebanon that it remains committed to its international commitments, including Council resolutions. On resolution 1701, Lebanon—an elected member of the Council—reiterated this commitment in a 26 January letter to the Council. 

Regarding the Tribunal, Council members seem to anticipate continued tension in Lebanon as indictments wind their way through the judicial process. Council members in past practice have generally underscored the importance of the Tribunal’s independence and foresee no Council role in its activities. However, if Lebanon’s ministerial statement is problematic vis-à-vis the Tribunal then some Council members may consider it necessary to address that development in some way.

Lebanon, for its own domestic political reasons, is likely to be uneasy about any deviation from past practices when it comes to the UNIFIL renewal or addressing Tribunal issues in the Council.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1937 (30 August 2010) renewed UNIFIL until 31 August 2011.
  • S/RES/1757 (30 May 2007) established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.
  • 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 the disarmament of all militias and extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.

Security Council Press Statement

  • SC/10264 (27 May 2011) condemned the attack on a UNIFIL convoy.

Security Council Letters

  • S/2011/312 (15 May 2011) and S/2011/309 (16 May 2011) were letters from, respectively, Lebanon and Israel regarding the 15 May al-Nakba protests.
  • S/2011/47 (26 January 2011) was a position paper by Lebanon on implementation of resolution 1701.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/258 (20 April 2011) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2011/91 (28 February 2011) was the latest report on resolution 1701.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Michael Williams (UK)

Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway)

UNIFIL Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas (Spain)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 30 April 2011

Authorised: 15,000 troops
Current: 11,873 military personnel
Troop Contributors: Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Turkey

Duration

March 1978 to present; mandate expires 31 August 2011

Cost

1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011: $518.71 million (A/C.5/65/15)

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