Expected Council Action
In November, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and a representative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will brief Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between the Shi’a militant group Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. The Council will also receive the semi-annual briefing on the latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559.
The mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) expires on 31 August 2017.
Key Recent Developments
In recent months, the situation along the Blue Line, the border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel, has been generally calm, but progress has remained limited on each party’s outstanding obligations under resolution 1701. There has been no headway towards a permanent ceasefire, and violations of resolution 1701 continue to occur regularly.
On 19 September, Lebanon sent a letter to the Council containing a summary of alleged Israeli violations of resolution 1701 committed during the month of August. The letter accuses Israel of committing 22 land violations, 29 sea violations and 79 air violations during the month.
Six Arab Israeli citizens were indicted on 6 October for smuggling explosives from Lebanon into Israel in cooperation with a Hezbollah plot to plant bombs in the Haifa area, according to the Israel security agency Shin Bet. Also, in September, Shin Bet, Israeli police and the Israel Defense Forces arrested several residents of the Alawite village of Ghajar for allegedly assisting Hezbollah by smuggling explosives and gathering intelligence.
Lebanon continues to face challenges to its stability and security, both internally and along its borders with Syria, including from extremist groups and arms smugglers. The activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias along the border continue to pose a threat to the stability of the region.
On 16 October, Hezbollah fighters attacked militants of the Sunni terror group Al Nusra Front who were stationed on the outskirts of the northeastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, targeting them with artillery shells. Militants belonging to Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant who are hiding in the rugged border region in the northeast are targeted by the Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces on a near-daily basis.
Meanwhile, Lebanon has not yet elected a president to fill the vacancy left by Michel Sleiman, whose term ended on 24 May 2014. However, on 20 October, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician and former prime minister Saad al-Hariri announced that he would back Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, to be president, a move that could help resolve the crisis if it wins support from all main factions. Hariri and Aoun must garner enough support to attain a two-thirds quorum of parliament members in a vote scheduled for 31 October. At press time, this meeting had yet to take place.
The Council renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year on 30 August in resolution 2305 without any major changes and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNIFIL by February 2017. Negotiations on the resolution’s text, drafted by France, were straightforward. A few Council members sought the addition of information on the scope and objectives of the strategic review, expressing concern that the review ought not to distract the mission from its tasks. However, the final text did not specify the scope of the review.
On 11 October, Indonesia announced that it is set to deploy 850 peacekeeping soldiers to UNIFIL in December. The team will include 18 women. Indonesia is the largest contributor to UNIFIL among the 40 participating countries, with a total of 1,296 personnel.
On 4 October, Philippe Lazzarini, UN Deputy Special Coordinator and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, and Fouad Fleifel, Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers of the Government of Lebanon, signed the UN Strategic Framework for Lebanon (UNSF). The UNSF represents the UN’s cooperative framework for support to Lebanon for the period 2017-20, outlining the vision of the UN in Lebanon in support of Lebanon’s security, political, human rights, development and humanitarian priorities.
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 great 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. This has in turn impaired Lebanon’s ability to address the growing security, economic, social and humanitarian challenges facing the country.
Given that the Council has relatively recently 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.|
|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|
|22 July 2016 S/PRST/2016/10||This was a presidential statement that stressed the importance of Lebanon’s 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.|