July 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2017
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MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon (1701)

Expected Council Action

In July, Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag 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 Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. 

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

Key Recent Developments

The Secretary-General transmitted his semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559 on 28 April. (Resolution 1559 urged the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, and the extension of the Lebanese government’s control over all Lebanese territory.) The report noted that on 27 December 2016, Lebanon’s cabinet agreed on its ministerial statement in which, as in 2014, it reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to resolution 1701 and its intention to address the needs of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and security services. The statement also emphasised that “Lebanese citizens have a right to resist Israeli occupation, ward off its attacks and recover occupied territories.” The report also noted that Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri attended the summit of the League of Arab States in Amman on 29 March. Before the summit, five former presidents and prime ministers of Lebanon sent a letter to the League of Arab States in which they emphasised the commitment of Lebanon to international resolutions, in particular Security Council resolution 1701, rejected illegal arms and expressed support for the Baabda Declaration and the disassociation policy. The report also stated that the participation of Hezbollah and other Lebanese groups in the conflict in Syria continued to breach the disassociation policy of Lebanon.

On 16 May, UNIFIL head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary on met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, Gebran Bassil, in Beirut. Beary expressed his appreciation for the commitment and continued support by the government of Lebanon to the implementation of resolution 1701 and noted the government’s commitment towards the extension of state authority and strengthening engagement in south Lebanon. Beary briefed Bassil on the overall situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations, and reported that UNIFIL has successfully increased its outreach to the local population as well as intensified its engagement with local leaders and communities. They also discussed the strategic partnership between the LAF and UNIFIL, and the need for increased support to the LAF, UNIFIL’s strategic partner. Beary reiterated UNIFIL’s continued commitment to work with the LAF in supporting the LAF Capabilities Development Plan. He also highlighted the importance of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanism, the tripartite forum, and reported that the parties have reaffirmed their commitment to resolution 1701 and have stressed their clear intent to continue working with UNIFIL to further strengthen security along the Blue Line.

The most recent tripartite meeting, chaired by Beary, was held on 20 April. Senior officials from the LAF and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) met at the UN position at Ras al-Naqoura. Discussions focused on issues related to the implementation of UNIFIL’s mandate, air and ground violations, the situation along the Blue Line and its ongoing visible marking, and the issue of withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Ghajar. Beary said that UNIFIL will continue to work closely with the parties in order to move the Blue Line marking process forward, “which will be in the long-term interest of both parties.”

Ambassador Nikki Haley (US) visited the area of UNIFIL’s operations on 8 June. According to media reports, Beary, when briefing Haley, told her that the situation in the border area was stable and did not require further intervention.  An argument erupted when Israel’s deputy chief of staff, Major General Aviv Kochavi, interrupted to say that UNIFIL was not doing its job properly and was afraid of entering the villages and towns of southern Lebanon and confronting Hezbollah. Kochavi then reportedly called on Haley to help change UNIFIL’s mandate to enable it to disarm Hezbollah. Israeli officials reportedly shared secret intelligence information with Haley regarding Hezbollah’s presence south of the Litani River, in violation of resolution 1701; Beray denied the information. Reports also indicate growing discontent with UNIFIL on the part of Israeli officials.

On 14 June, Lebanon’s cabinet approved a new law that extended its parliament’s term by almost a year until next May, avoiding a legislative vacuum when the chamber’s current term ends on 20 June. The law was approved by parliament two days later. The law was finally agreed to after months of debate among parliamentarians. According to the new law, among other changes, a proportional representation system will be created for parliament.  The next elections, the first in eight years, are likely to take place next May.

Key Issues

The main issue is that while the situation is relatively calm, there has been little progress toward the key objectives of resolution 1701 nearly 11 years after its adoption, including a permanent ceasefire.

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.

Options

Given that the Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of UNIFIL in August, it is likely that Council members will regard the July meeting as an opportunity to take stock of the situation on the ground and issues concerning the mission’s operation in preparation for the August renewal.

Council Dynamics

The Council has been united in its position that UNIFIL contributes to stability between Israel and Lebanon, especially in the context of the current Syrian crisis. Council consensus includes support for Lebanon’s territorial integrity and security, condemnation of acts of terrorism, and recognition of the crucial role the LAF play in responding to security challenges.

The US appears to be increasingly interested in focusing the Council’s attention on the threats posed by Hezbollah and Iran in the region. This, coupled, with the new administration’s staunch support of Israel, may provoke the US to re-examine UNIFIL’s mandate, as requested by Kochavi during Haley’s visit.

France is the penholder on Lebanon.

UN Documents on Lebanon

Security Council Resolutions
30 August 2016 S/RES/2305 This was a resolution which renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year and requested the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of UNIFIL by February 2017.
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 Reports
28 April 2017 S/2017/374 This was the Secretary-General’s semi-annual report on the implementation of resolution 1559.
8 March 2017 S/2017/201 This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701.