July 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 June 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action
In July, Council members are expected to be briefed by Special Coordinator Derek Plumbly in consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701 of August 2006 which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel. No formal action is expected.

The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August.

Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s periodic 1701 report was due on 30 June. It was expected to portray the situation in southern Lebanon as relatively stable and track ongoing issues, such as Israeli-occupied northern Ghajar, demarcation of the Blue Line, Israeli over-flights, security along the line of buoys and other maritime issues and how the situation in Syria continues to impact Lebanon.

The upcoming 1701 report will also likely note the positive development that the Lebanese national dialogue reconvened on 11 June, issuing a statement committing the 8 March and 14 March coalitions to Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s policy to “disassociate” Lebanon from major international decisions on Syria. Mikati, who heads a Hezbollah-led cabinet, has emphasised the policy’s importance to maintain stability within Lebanon. The national dialogue reconvened on 25 June focusing on the sensitive issue of weapons outside state control. (This process has been stalled since November 2010 over the issue of Hezbollah’s arms.) At press time, the next session was slated for 24 July.

Security incidents in the south seem to have been minor compared to previous reporting periods. On 23 April an explosion in Tyre injured seven people. (Similar incidents occurred in Tyre on 16 November and 28 December 2011. Media reports indicate the targeted areas were popular with UN staff.)

On 20 June the UNIFIL force commander briefed (S/PV.6789) the Council as part of a larger meeting on UN peacekeeping operations. He said that UNIFIL is an effective tool to maintain the cessation of violence but that it cannot tackle the larger political issue of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and that it is vital to take advantage of the relative calm UNIFIL’s presence has created to establish a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution of the conflict.

The upcoming report may also update Council members on the 12 March findings from DPKO’s strategic review of UNIFIL which identified three priorities:

  • enhancing coordination between UNIFIL, the UN country team and the Special Coordinator’s office;
  • increasing the involvement of Lebanese security institutions in implementing resolution 1701 in the south; and
  • increasing the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to attain sustained security control in the south.

Regarding the spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis in Lebanon and allegations of arms smuggling, Terje Rod-Larsen, Special Envoy for implementation of 1701 report is likely to note two incidents of concern:

  • on 28 April the Lebanese navy seized weapons from a ship, allegedly bound for rebel groups in Syria (apparently UNIFIL hailed the ship during a regular exercise with the Lebanese navy); and
  • on 8 May Lebanese customs authorities in Tripoli found ammunition aboard a container ship.

On 20 May a street battle in Beirut between pro- and anti-Syrian Sunni groups left two people dead and 18 injured. Media reports indicate the incident occurred after a prominent anti-Syrian Sunni cleric was shot and killed at an army checkpoint in northern Lebanon.

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernández Taranco on 19 June reported (S/PV.6788) that the situation in the north remained fragile, citing a 1 June outbreak of violence between Sunni and Alawite neighbourhoods in Tripoli. He also reported on Syrian incursions in northern Lebanon that resulted in two deaths. There had also been several incidents of abductions of Lebanese citizens who had been taken across the border to Syria; most had been released.

Regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the trial chamber held sessions in June to hear arguments challenging the establishment and jurisdiction of the Tribunal. A decision is expected by the end of July. (Similar motions against other tribunals established under a Chapter VII resolution have all been rejected in the past.) The trial in absentia of those accused in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others is not anticipated until late 2012 at the earliest. 

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is how to encourage Israel and Lebanon to move from the status quo—cessation of hostilities—toward a ceasefire. But the current regional political climate makes the likelihood of near-term progress on this issue remote.

Other issues include recurring Israeli over-flights and its occupation of Ghajar in violation of 1559 and 1701.

Options
The Council’s most likely option is to take no action, as has been the practice since April 2008, when the Council last issued a presidential statement on resolution 1701. However, Council members will likely begin preliminary discussions on UNIFIL’s forthcoming renewal during the July consultations.

Council Dynamics
Council members agree that UNIFIL is an important stabilising factor between Israel and Lebanon—especially in light of the current developments in Syria. However, achieving a permanent ceasefire seems remote and Council members realise that continued quiet in southern Lebanon may at present be the only achievable goal.

Most Council members agree that arms smuggling and disarmament remain key concerns but seem to accept that progress is only likely in the nexus of the recently revived inter-Lebanese dialogue and improvement on the Israel-Syria track, which seems indefinitely postponed given the current Syrian crisis.

Council members underscore the importance of the Tribunal’s independence and do not foresee any Council role in its activities.

France is the lead country on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2004 (30 August 2011) renewed UNIFIL until 31 August 2012 and requested a strategic review.
  • 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.

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2012/244 (20 April 2012) was the latest report on resolution 1559.
  • S/2012/124 (28 February 2012) was the latest report on resolution 1701.

Security Council Letters

  • S/2012/151 (12 March 2012) was the strategic review of UNIFIL requested in resolution 2004.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Derek Plumbly (UK)

Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559

Terje Rod-Larsen (Norway)

UNHCR figures for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon as of 27 June 2012

24,024 Syrian refugees registered by the UN in Lebanon with an additional 5,250 pending registration.

UNIFIL Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra (Italy)

Size and Composition of UNIFIL as of 31 May 2012

Authorised: 15,000 troops

Current: 11,845 military personnel

Troop Contributors: Armenia, Austria, 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, Nigeria, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Timor-Leste and Turkey

Duration

March 1978 to present; mandate expires 31 August 2012

Cost

1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012: $545.47 million (A/C.5/66/14)