Lebanon: Consultations on 1701 Report
This afternoon (14 March) Council members will be briefed in consultations by the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, on the most recent report of the Secretary-General on resolution 1701 (S/2013/120), covering the period from 30 October 2012 to 28 February 2013. A press statement encouraging Lebanon to hold scheduled elections on time and addressing spill-over from the Syrian conflict into Lebanon is possible following the meeting. (It appears that the draft press statement was circulated by France to the P5 late yesterday (13 March) and to the wider membership today.)
It seems the draft press statement addresses a variety of security, political and humanitarian issues including cross-border incidents between Syria and Lebanon and the need for the elections in Lebanon to be held in accordance with the constitutional time frame. Another issue it is expected to cover is the growing Syrian refugee situation in Lebanon and the need for countries to fulfill pledges of humanitarian aid.
Following Plumbly’s briefing, the discussion is likely to cover a number of areas of concern. Council members are likely to be interested in an update on the political challenges affecting the country, particularly the political tensions that have intensified since the 19 October 2012 assassination of Brigadier-General Wisam al-Hassan. While the Secretary-General’s recent report welcomed the “continuing calm” in UNIFIL’s area of operations, it expressed concern over the lack of progress towards a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. The report also pointed to “the political stalemate that has continued to prevail in the wake of the assassination of Brigadier-General Wisam al-Hassan”.
A related issue that may be a topic of discussion among Council members today is the National Dialogue, the ongoing talks that began in 2006 among political leaders and that often focus on the issue of Hezbollah’s arms. The Dialogue has not been convened in several months, and, following al-Hassan’s assassination, the opposition March 14 coalition called for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet (and the installation of a neutral cabinet to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections) as a prerequisite for returning to the talks.
The Council will also likely be interested in learning more about potential delays to the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 9 June. The Secretary-General’s report encouraged “all parties… to work to ensure that elections are held on a consensual basis within the legal and constitutional time frame.” Nevertheless, ongoing disagreements over a new electoral law to replace that used in the 2009 elections have threatened to delay the polls.
While Syria remains a difficult and contentious issue for the Council, Council members appear to be aware of the importance of containing the spill-over effects of the Syrian conflict into UNIFIL’s area of operations. Along these lines, the Secretary-General’s report drew attention to the “serious challenges for the security and stability of Lebanon” posed by the conflict in Syria, in particular repeated violations of the territorial integrity of Lebanon and the involvement of certain Lebanese elements in the conflict in Syria. The report also highlighted a “notable increase in the presence of [Syrian] refugees” in UNIFIL’s area of operations. (As of 13 March, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has noted that there are 354,316 Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration in Lebanon, a figure that represents roughly 8% of the population of Lebanon. On 13 March, Mikati indicated that Lebanon will need at least $370 million in support for refugees this year.)
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