Expected Council Action
In August, the Security Council is expected to extend the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year, ahead of its expiry on 31 August. This year’s renewal marks the tenth anniversary of the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon and the adoption of resolution 1701 in 2006.
Key Recent Developments
On 7 July, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag briefed Council members on the latest Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, covering the period from 26 February to 24 June. The report describes the situation along the Blue Line as being generally calm but notes that progress has remained limited on each party’s outstanding obligations under the resolution and that there has been no progress towards a permanent ceasefire. Among the violations of resolution 1701 reported by the Secretary-General are the continuation of almost daily incursions into Lebanese airspace by Israel, and Israel’s continuing occupation of Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line. The absence of progress the delineation of international borders in the Sheb’a Farms area, in spite of the call made in resolution 1701, remains a source of concern, according to the report.
The Secretary-General expressed concern about the continuing presence of unauthorised weapons in the area between the Litani River and the Blue Line and called upon the Lebanese government to take all actions necessary to ensure that there are no unauthorised armed personnel, assets or weapons in the UNIFIL area of operations. He noted that the situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border remained tense during the reporting period, with continued reports of cross-border movements of fighters and arms. The report described the overall security situation as fragile and vulnerable, particularly to terrorist attacks.
Also, according to the report, Israel continues to assert that Hezbollah maintains military infrastructure and equipment in southern Lebanon and that there are significant ongoing arms transfers to Hezbollah across the Lebanese-Syrian border. A 17 February letter to the Secretary-General from Israel claimed that Hezbollah had amassed an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets, much of which Israel claims is located in civilian residential areas.
Lebanon sent letters to the Security Council on 30 March and 23 May that contained statistical summaries of alleged Israeli violations of resolution 1701. On 15 July, Israel responded with a letter that stated that the Lebanese letters contained intentionally misleading accusations against Israel, annexing Israel’s detailed response to Lebanese allegations of violations between February and April.
Meanwhile, Lebanon continues to be unable to elect a president to fill the vacancy left by Michel Sleiman, whose term ended on 24 May 2014. On 13 July, Lebanon’s Parliament failed for the 42nd time to elect a president due to the lack of a quorum. For the same reason, joint parliamentary committees were unable to meet to resume talks on a new electoral law.
On 22 July, the Council adopted a presidential statement that reaffirmed its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon; stressed that the election of a president, the formation of a unity government and the election of a parliament by May 2017 are critical to Lebanon’s stability and ability to withstand regional challenges; and called on all parties to act responsibly, put Lebanon’s stability ahead of partisan politics, and show the necessary flexibility and sense of urgency to apply mechanisms provided for by the Lebanese constitution with regard to the election. The Security Council commended the Lebanese government for the timely holding of local elections and further encouraged the authorities to move ahead within the set calendar for the next legislative elections.
The statement also condemned in the strongest terms acts of terrorism on Lebanese territory and affirmed that the preservation of Lebanon’s stability is essential to regional stability and security. It encouraged regional partners to engage constructively in resolving the presidential vacancy and preventing the spill-over of regional crises into Lebanon, and the international community to continue supporting Lebanon’s political and economic stability, including through the continued provision of assistance.
Major General Michael Beary of Ireland took up the post of UNIFIL head of mission and force commander on 19 July, replacing Major General Luciano Portolano of Italy, who had served as force commander for two years.
The main issue is that while—ten years after the adoption of 1701—the situation is relatively calm, there has been little progress on its key objectives, as detailed by the Secretary-General in his report.
A central 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. In that context, the ongoing crisis in Syria, with Hezbollah’s involvement on the side of the regime, and the flow of arms from Syria to Hezbollah remain of utmost concern.
Another issue is the inability of Lebanon to elect a president, which has paralysed the country’s parliament and rendered it incapable of passing critical legislation. That has impaired Lebanon’s ability to address the growing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country.
The main option is for the Council to renew the mandate of UNIFIL for an additional year.
Given that the Council has just adopted a comprehensive presidential statement outlining various concerns regarding Lebanon, a further Council outcome at this time seems unlikely.
The Council has been united in its position that UNIFIL contributes to stability between Israel and Lebanon, especially considering the current Syrian crisis. Council consensus includes support for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and security, condemnation of acts of terrorism on Lebanese territory and recognition of the crucial role the Lebanese Armed Forces play in responding to security challenges. The Council has also repeatedly expressed its united concern at the vacancy in the presidency and resulting political paralysis.
France is the penholder on Lebanon.
UN Documents on Lebanon
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 August 2015 S/RES/2236||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNIFIL for one year.|
|11 August 2006 S/RES/1701||This resolution expanded UNIFIL by 15,000 troops and expanded its mandate.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|22 July 2016 S/PRST/2016/10||This was a presidential statement that stressed the importance of Lebanon’s electing a electing a president by May 2017 in order to maintain stability.|
|24 June 2016 S/2016/572||This was on the implementation of resolution 1701.|
|Security Council Letters|
|30 March 2016 S/2016/335||This was a letter from Lebanon that contained accusations of Israeli violations of resolution 1701 during February 2016.|
|23 May 2016 S/2016/495||This was from Lebanon and contained accusations of Israeli violations of 1701 during April 2016.|
|17 February 2016 S/2016/153||This was a letter from Israel claiming that Hezbollah had amassed an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|24 May 2016 SC/12371||This was a press statement that underscored their deepest concern over the vacancy and expressed their intention to continue following related developments with a particular sense of urgency.|