May 2016 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 April 2016
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

Expected Council Action

In May, Council members expect to receive the semi-annual briefing from Special Envoy Terje Rød-Larsen on the latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted in 2004, resolution 1559 urged the disarmament of all militias and the extension of government control over all Lebanese territory.

Key Recent Developments

Notwithstanding Lebanon’s official position of disassociation from the Syrian conflict, Lebanese militants continue to engage in the conflict, in violation of resolution 1559. Hezbollah’s engagement in the conflict in Syria continues to have domestic and regional repercussions for Lebanon.

On 11 April, Israel acknowledged for the first time that it has launched dozens of strikes in Syria aimed at suspected arms shipments destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah. On 20 April, Israel’s deputy chief of staff, Major General Yair Golan, issued a warning to Hezbollah, saying that in any future war with Lebanon, Israel would cause “devastating” damage and would unleash all of its military capabilities.

Meanwhile, violence has flared recently between rival political factions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Fatah member Hussein Othman was killed and others were injured on 1 April when a political dispute led to gunfire and the firing of rocket-propelled grenades in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. On 12 April, Fatah’s security chief in neighbouring Mieh Mieh camp, General Fathi Zeidan, was killed, along with three others, when a bomb that had been placed in his car went off in Ain al-Hilweh. The camp, in southern Lebanon, has regularly seen deadly factional disputes.

Palestinian refugee camps mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security forces. On 21 April, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri discussed the security situation in the camp with a visiting senior Fatah official, Azzam al-Ahmad. Al-Ahmad emphasised that the perpetrators of such violence were seeking to destabilise the camp and not Lebanon.

During a regional tour, French President François Hollande announced in Beirut his country’s financial and military support for Lebanon and urged politicians to elect a president as soon as possible.  France pledged 50 million euros in 2016 and 100 million euros over the next three years as assistance to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Hollande’s pledge follows Saudi Arabia’s 19 February suspension of a $3 billion aid package for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to buy arms from France in what a Saudi official described as retaliation for Beirut’s failure to condemn attacks on Saudi missions in Iran. The decision came after Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil during two meetings of Arab and Muslim foreign ministers refused to support Saudi resolutions condemning Iran.

Lebanon remains in a political stalemate over the question of who will be the country’s next president. The office has been vacant since 25 May 2014. On 18 April, Lebanon failed for the 38th time to elect a new president. The next electoral session has been scheduled for 10 May.

Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag briefed the Council in consultations on 17 March. Following the meeting, Council members issued a press statement on Lebanon. Council members reaffirmed its deep concern over the 21-month vacancy in the presidency of Lebanon and the current political stalemate in government and reiterated its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.  They also reiterated their call for the continuation of international support for the LAF through additional and expedited assistance in areas where it is most critically needed, including counterterrorism and border protection, and expressed continuing concern about the negative impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s stability and the immediate threat to its security. The statement called on all Lebanese parties to cease any involvement in the Syrian crisis, consistent with their commitment in the ministerial declaration of the current government and in the Baabda Declaration of 12 June 2012. Council members, who continue to be gravely concerned by the impact of Lebanon’s hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, renewed their call for all parties to abide by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other UN personnel and expressed appreciation for the International Support Group for Lebanon.

Key Issues

The ongoing crisis in Syria, with Hezbollah’s involvement on the side of the regime, remains the overarching issue. The flow of arms through Syria to Hezbollah is a related issue. These circumstances have had a negative effect on Lebanon and continue to stall efforts to fully implement resolution 1559.

A related issue is that Hezbollah and other non-state actors continue to maintain weaponry that directly hinders the government’s exercise of full authority over its territory, poses a threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability and contravenes its obligations under resolutions 1559 and 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.

Another issue is the inability of Lebanon to elect a president, which has paralysed the country’s parliament and threatens Lebanon’s stability with its potential to aggravate sectarian tensions within the country.

Options

Considering that Council members issued a comprehensive press statement in March outlining the main issues on which they stand united in their support of Lebanon, the most likely option is to merely receive the briefing and take no other action at this time.

Council Dynamics

The Council continues to demonstrate unity in support of Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security and to support Lebanon in its efforts to insulate itself from the damaging effect of the Syrian conflict.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
11 August 2006 S/RES/1701 This resolution expanded UNIFIL by 15,000 troops and expanded its mandate.
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.
Secretary-General’s Report
22 April 2016  S/2016/366 This was the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of resolution 1559.
Security Council Press Statement
17 March 2016 SC/12287 This was a press statement reaffirming deep concern over the 21-month vacancy in the presidency of Lebanon and the current political stalemate.