Expected Council Action
In July, Acting UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix will brief Council members in consultations on the latest 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 UNIFIL expires on 31 August.
Key Recent Developments
On 6 May, Lebanon held its first parliamentary elections since 2009. For almost nine years, the parliament had retained the same composition by extending its mandate and postponing elections, mainly because of security concerns. In this context, the 6 May elections represented a milestone for the country. The International Support Group for Lebanon, which consists of the UN, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, the US, the EU and the Arab League, welcomed the elections and emphasised their significance in renewing the democratic mandate of the parliament.
The Future Movement led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri suffered a significant setback in the elections, retaining only 20 of the 33 seats held previously. While Hezbollah won 12 seats, the parties and individuals that are aligned with it to varying degrees secured another 58 seats. This will translate into substantial parliamentary influence for this grouping of parties, given that they now control 70 of the 128 seats in the parliament. Among the parties that are closely aligned with Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement led by President Michel Aoun won 20 seats and the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri won 13 seats.
Berri, who has served as the speaker of the parliament since 1992, was re-elected on 23 May after winning the support of 98 representatives. The same day, they elected Elie Ferzli, also an ally of Hezbollah, to the post of deputy speaker. On 24 May, President Aoun, backed by 111 out of 128 representatives, designated Hariri as prime minister and put him in charge of creating the new government.
In addition to an array of socio-economic issues facing Lebanon, the country continues to carry the burden of hosting more than one million refugees from Syria. Last year, President Aoun warned that Lebanon lacked the capacity to cope with the vast number of refugees from Syria and said that he wanted to explore ways to facilitate their return. On 7 June, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused UNHCR of hindering the voluntary return of Syrian refugees by disseminating the information that the situation in Syria is still not secure. The following day, Bassil initiated a freeze on residency permits for UNHCR staff in Lebanon. UNHCR has denied Bassil’s claims and emphasised that it does not seek to influence refugees’ decisions about returning to Syria but only tries to make sure that they are well informed prior to making decisions.
On 28 May, UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) head of mission and force commander Major General Michael Beary presided over a meeting with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces. Among the issues discussed was UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination activities along the Blue Line, the border demarcation between Israel and Lebanon. At the meeting, Beary said he was pleased by the ongoing commitment by both parties to act in accordance with resolution 1701 and to preserve stability along the Blue Line. He also emphasised the importance of holding tripartite meetings to find solutions for emerging issues and prevent misunderstandings that could lead to increased tensions.
Key Issues and Options
The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operations has remained generally calm; however, the Council remains concerned about the lack of progress towards implementing the main objectives of resolution 1701, including a permanent ceasefire, more than a decade after its adoption.
A principal problem for the Council is that Hezbollah and other non-state actors still maintain significant amounts of weaponry. This inhibits the government’s ability 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. A related issue is Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war and the movement of arms from Syria to Hezbollah.
Last year’s UNIFIL renewal resolution requested the Secretary-General to look at ways to enhance the mission’s visible presence, patrols and inspections. Some Council members might be interested to hear more on this issue. The Council could request a briefing by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations focusing on whether and how UNIFIL’s work has changed since the adoption of the renewal resolution and what impact this has had on the overall security situation.
While the Council continues to support UNIFIL and values its contribution to stability in the region and between Israel and Lebanon, some members differ in their perception of the mission’s role. The US in particular has become increasingly critical of UNIFIL. It has been vocal about what it believes is the rising threat of Hezbollah and its proliferation of weapons, and has advocated for a more proactive role for the mission in confronting this threat. At the last mandate renewal, France and some other members were cautious about the prospects for a more proactive approach by the mission, afraid that this could threaten the fragile calm in southern Lebanon that has been maintained for more than ten years. There is a general consensus among Council members, however, in favour of supporting Lebanon’s territorial integrity and security, condemning acts of terrorism, and recognising the crucial role the LAF plays in responding to security challenges.
France is the penholder on Lebanon.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LEBANON
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 August 2017 S/RES/2373||This resolution renewed UNIFIL’s mandate for another 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.|
|21 May 2018 S/2018/480||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559.|
|8 March 2018 S/2018/210||This report was on the implementation of resolution 1701.|