April 2015 Monthly Forecast

MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In April, Council members expect to receive the semi-annual briefing in consultations from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on the latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted in 2004, the resolution urged the disarmament of all militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory. Discussion is expected to focus on the political situation in Lebanon, the failure to elect a president and the security situation in border areas. 

Key Recent Developments

Council members last met on Lebanon on 17 March when Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet briefed in consultations on the most recent report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Kaag addressed a wide range of pressing issues related to Lebanon, including a 28 January incident along the Blue Line—the border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel published by the UN in 2000—which she described as the worst violation of resolution 1701 since 2006. An attack that day by Hezbollah on the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) killed two soldiers and was met with retaliatory fire that killed a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeper. Kaag noted that a UNIFIL preliminary report on the incident had been shared with the parties for comment. She touched upon numerous other issues, such as the possession of arms by Hezbollah; the manifold effects of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon, including the importance of Lebanon’s maintaining its policy of disassociation from that conflict; and the refugee crisis. She also stressed the need to support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Concerning the political situation and the country’s inability to elect a president for the past ten months, Kaag stressed that the international community must maintain pressure on all parties to ensure they resolve their differences and elect a president.

Mulet briefed on several other incidents in UNIFIL’s area of operations and also on the investigation into the 28 January incident.

France suggested in the consultations that a presidential statement ought to be adopted to address several key issues and stressed that there was a need to emphasise the unity of the Council in its support for Lebanon. All Council members were in favour of this approach and, following consultations, France circulated a comprehensive presidential statement. The statement, which was adopted on 19 March with few amendments, addressed stability along the Blue Line and in the UNIFIL area of operations; the now ten-month stalemate in the election of a president; the increasing negative impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s stability; the impact of hosting nearly 1.2 million Syrian registered refugees; the renewal of the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; and the Council’s supportive stance towards the LAF and the International Support Group for Lebanon, which aims to help Lebanon cope with the influx of Syrian refugees.

Concerning the presidential vacuum, on 11 March, Lebanon’s parliament failed, for the 19th time, to elect a president, as rival factions remained unable to agree on a consensus candidate. As in the past, the parliament was unable to reach an agreement because Hezbollah and allied parliamentarians from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc boycotted the sessions. Speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hezbollah and Aoun, scheduled the next parliamentary session to elect a president to take place on 2 April. The office has been vacant since former president Michel Sleiman’s term expired on 25 May 2014.

The Tribunal released its sixth annual report, covering the period from 1 March 2014 to 28 February 2015 on 10 March. The jurisdiction of the tribunal extends to attacks connected to the 14 February 2005 assassination of prime minister Rafik Hariri, which occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005. Potentially, with the consent of Lebanon, the UN and the Security Council, this jurisdiction could extend to later connected attacks. The prosecutor reported that assessment of such attacks is continuing. To permit the conclusion of the current work of the Tribunal and accommodate continuing investigation, the Secretary-General renewed its  mandate for a third three-year term, until 28 February 2018.

Human Rights-Related Developments

The special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, visited Lebanon from 23 March to 2 April to assess the co-existence of various religious denominations or faiths in Lebanon as well as the freedom of religion or belief of refugees and immigrants. During the visit, Bielefeldt met with government officials and representatives of religious communities or beliefs, refugees, civil society organisations and the UN. Bielefeldt will submit a report to the Human Rights Council in 2016.

Key Issues

The key issue is that Hezbollah and other non-state actors continue to maintain weaponry, which restricts the ability of the state to exercise full authority over its territory, poses a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability and contravenes its obligations under resolutions 1559 and 1701.

Several pressing issues arise from the conflict in neighbouring Syria, including the engagement of Lebanese elements in the war there, continued fighting in border areas and the immense burden of hosting growing numbers of Syrian refugees.

Another key issue is Lebanon’s inability to elect a president, which has paralysed the country’s parliament at a time when it is facing a multitude of threats to its stability.

Options

Given that the Council has just recently adopted a comprehensive presidential statement on the situation in Lebanon, the most likely option for the Council is to receive the briefing and take no further action at this time.

Council Dynamics

As demonstrated by the quick adoption of an extensive presidential statement on Lebanon on 19 March, the Council continues to exhibit unity in its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security and to support Lebanon in its fight to insulate itself from the deleterious effects of the conflict in neighbouring Syria. The Council also remains united in its concern about the continued vacancy in the presidency, particularly given the extreme challenges facing Lebanon at this time.

France is the penholder on Lebanon in the Council.

UN Documents on Lebanon

Security Council Resolutions
26 August 2014 S/RES/2172 This resolution extended the mandate of UNIFIL for one year.
2 September 2004 S/RES/1559 This resolution urged withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory, and free and fair presidential elections.
Security Council Presidential Statements
19 March 2015 S/PRST/2015/7 This presidential statement addressed several issues, including the situation along the Blue Line; the vacancy in the presidential office; and the effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, including the challenges posed by hosting nearly 1.2 million refugees, and it expressed support for the LAF, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Support Group for Lebanon.
29 May 2014 S/PRST/2014/10 This presidential statement expressed disappointment that presidential elections were not completed within the constitutional timeframe and urged Lebanon to hold elections quickly. It also called on all parties to respect Lebanon’s policy of disassociation and to refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis—a reference to Hezbollah’s fighting in Syria.
Secretary-General’s Reports
27 February 2015 S/2015/147 This was the most recent report on the implementation of resolution 1701.
7 October 2014 S/2014/720 This was a report on the implementation of resolution 1559.
Security Council Press Statement
4 February 2015 SC/11766 This press statement condemned the killing of a UNIFIL peacekeeper.

Useful Additional Resource
Special Tribunal for Lebanon Sixth Annual Report (2014-2015)