UN secretary general's eighth report on Security Council
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Editor's note: What follows is an advance copy of the eighth semi-annual report of the United Nations secretary general to the Security Council on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559.
1. The present report is my eighth semi-annual report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004). It provides an update on progress in the implementation of the resolution, and highlights areas of concern that continue to impede on efforts to strengthen Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.
2. Over the last 6 months, Lebanon has experienced both the ruinous effects of sectarian violence and hope and optimism.
3. On 6th May the Lebanese Cabinet declared Hizbullah's secure communication network separate from the State's system "illegal and unconstitutional" and announced the dismissal of the chief of security of the Beirut International Airport. In protest, Hizbullah closed all roads leading to and from Beirut airport and other principal roads in parts of the capital. Hizbullah stated that its actions would continue until the Government rescinded both decisions. Later that day, exchanges of fire between members of the opposition and pro-Government forces took place throughout several districts of Beirut. Pro-Government groups closed the main border crossing between Lebanon and Syria. The violence escalated and spread to other parts of the country, which on occasion included the use of heavy weaponry. This brought the country to an effective standstill. Hostilities continued until 14th May and led to 69 fatalities and over 180 wounded. During these clashes, many alleged human rights violations were registered, including illegal detention and ill-treatment, civilian deaths, instances of summary executions, destruction of private property, and attacks on media and freedom of expression.
4. On 11th May, the League of Arab States convened for an emergency meeting. It decided to dispatch a delegation to Beirut, and condemned the use of armed violence to achieve political objectives. On 14th May, a Ministerial Committee of Arab Foreign Ministers headed by the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Al-Thani and by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa, travelled to Lebanon. The Committee held discussions with the parties aimed at ending the crisis. On 15th May, the Cabinet rescinded its decisions of 6th May. Shortly afterwards, the Arab Committee announced an inter-Lebanese understanding that called for calm on the streets and the withdrawal of all armed elements. The agreement also called for a Lebanese National Dialogue to begin the following day in Doha, aiming to seek consensus on the issues of a national unity government and certain aspects of a new electoral law, thereby enabling the election of a President of the Republic.
5. Lebanese political leaders travelled to Doha on 16th May. Through intense efforts led by the Emir of Qatar, his Prime Minister and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Lebanese leaders reached a comprehensive political understanding on 21st May, leading to the election of General Michel Suleiman as President of the Republic of Lebanon on 25th May. On the eve of this election, the long-standing protests outside the Prime Minister's office were brought to an end.
6. On 11th July ... Suleiman issued a decree forming the 70th Lebanese Cabinet. On 12th August, the new cabinet and its policy statement received an overwhelming vote of confidence from Parliament.
7. At the invitation of President Bashar Al-Assad, on 13th and 14th August President Suleiman visited Syria where a series of agreements were reached of significant relevance to the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004). On 15th October, the Foreign Ministers of Lebanon and Syria signed in Damascus a memorandum establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
8. Despite the reconciliation agreement reached in Doha, over the reporting period there have been violent clashes leading to fatalities, in particular in and around the northern city of Tripoli. In particular, on 13th August, an improvised explosive device was detonated at a bus stop frequently used by Lebanese Army soldiers in Tripoli, killing 15 people, including 10 soldiers.
9. On 10th September, Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic party was killed in a car bomb in Baysur. This was the first political assassination in the country since the reconciliation accord reached in Doha.
10. On 16th September President Michel Suleiman convened at the Baabda palace the first session of the National Dialogue pursuant to the Doha Agreement to discuss the reinforcement of the State's authority throughout the country, and a national defence strategy. The Secretary-General of the League of Arab States attended the meeting. In parallel, a series of reconciliation efforts have been undertaken by Lebanese political parties.
11. On 29th September, a new terrorist attack targeted the Lebanese Armed Forces in the city of Tripoli, killing six people, including four soldiers. 32 people were injured, 18 of whom were soldiers.
II. Implementation of Resolution 1559 (2004)
12. Since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1559 in September 2004, several of its provisions have now been implemented. In my second semi-annual report of 26 October 2005 (S/2005/673), I was able to certify that free and credible parliamentary elections had taken place in spring 2005. The same conclusion applied to the withdrawal of Syrian troops, military assets and the military intelligence apparatus from Lebanon. During this reporting period, a President of the Republic was finally elected, consistent with the provisions of the resolution, thus reviving the constitutional institutions of the country. In addition, Lebanon and Syria have engaged in high level talks on matters of relevance to Lebanon's sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity such as the establishment of diplomatic relations and the delineation of an international boundary between the two countries, as strongly encouraged by the Security Council in its resolution 1680 (2006). I am therefore glad to report on major strides towards the full implementation of the requirements of resolution 1559 (2004).
13. Meanwhile, the clashes that took place last May and the several security incidents throughout the reporting period, in particular in northern Lebanon, continue to emphasize the threats posed by the presence of militias to the stability of the country, and the need for the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed forces to exercise the monopoly on the use of force throughout Lebanon. Resolution 1559 thus remains to be implemented in full.
14. Over the last six months, my representatives and I have remained in regular and close contacts with all parties in Lebanon, as well as with relevant regional and international players.
A. Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, Unity, and Political Independence of Lebanon
15. The main objective of resolution 1559 (2004) is to strengthen the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon, consistent with the Taif Agreement of 1989 to which all the political parties in Lebanon committed. I continued to assign to this matter the highest priority in my efforts to assist with the implementation of the resolution. In this context, I welcome President Suleiman's appeal, in his inaugural speech, for unity and national dialogue, and his vow to protect the country's constitution, sovereignty and independence. I also welcome his commitment to the UN charter and resolutions.
16. I have maintained my efforts to encourage the early initiation of a process between Lebanon and Syria, based on an agreed action agenda, which would eventually lead to the establishment of full diplomatic relations, in fulfilment of the relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006) emanating from resolution 1559 (2004).
17. On 12th July, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France convened a summit in Paris with President Michel Suleiman of Lebanon, President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria and His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thany, Emir of Qatar. At its conclusion, the President of France announced that the Presidents of Lebanon and Syria had informed him of their willingness to exchange ambassadors. On 14th August, the Lebanese and Syrian Presidents concluded two days of talks in Damascus with the release of a joint statement read out at a press conference held by the foreign ministers of the two countries, Mr. Fawzi Salloukh and Mr. Walid Muallem. In line with the commitment obtained in Paris, the communiqu announced the agreement of the two states to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. On 21st August, the Lebanese cabinet endorsed the decision to establish diplomatic relations with the Syrian Arab Republic and to open an embassy in Damascus. On 14th October, President Bashar Al Assad signed a decree establishing diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon. This decree also stated that a Syrian embassy would be established in Beirut. On 15th October, the Foreign Ministers of Syria and Lebanon signed in Damascus a memorandum announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations effective the same day. In the same document, both parties re-affirmed their determination to reinforce and consolidate their relations on the basis of mutual respect for their sovereignty and independence. The Presidents of Lebanon and Syria informed me that indeed embassies would be established in both capitals by the end of 2008. I commend the leaders of Lebanon and Syria for these new significant steps towards the full implementation of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), and look forward to the opening of embassies in both capitals.
18. I have also maintained my efforts to encourage Syria and Lebanon to achieve the full delineation of their common border, which remains an element of crucial importance to a number of explicit operational requirements of resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). During the reporting period, there has not yet been significant progress on this matter.
19. In this context, I took note that at the conclusion of the Lebanese-Syrian summit held in Damascus on 13th-14th August, the two parties announced the revival of the work of the joint committee for delineating the common borders based on priorities that would be set by both sides. I welcome the renewed intention of Syria and Lebanon to make progress on this matter and expect its early materialization, in particular in those areas where the border is uncertain or disputed.
20. On 30th August the Council of Ministers of Lebanon denounced the trespassing into Lebanese territory in Deir Al-Ashayer, in the eastern Beka'a Valley, of Syrian citizens, reportedly to dig two wells on Lebanese territory. I recall that I have already reported in my letter to the Security Council of 23rd May 2005 (S/2005/331) and in my second semi-annual report on the implementation of security council 1559 (2004) (S/2005/673), that the status of Deir Al-Ashayer area remains unclear and needed to be addressed in a formal border agreement to guarantee the territorial integrity of Lebanon. This incident exemplifies the importance of the timely implementation of tangible measures towards the delineation of the border between Syria and Lebanon.
21. I have continued my cartographic and diplomatic work in relation to the issue of the Shab'a Farms area, and will further report on this in my upcoming report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006).
22. Preventing breaches of the arms embargo is a critical element for strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence. I remain concerned by the general porosity of the Syrian-Lebanese borders that renders it easily penetrable. Further, the permanent presence of para-military infrastructures belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifadah, that straddle the border, gives such groups de facto control of parts of the border. A number of Member States have also expressed to me their growing concern that weapons and fighters continue to flow across the Syrian-Lebanese border. I recall the conclusion of the recent report of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (S/2008/582) that in general, Lebanon has not yet succeeded in enhancing the overall security of its borders in any significant manner. In that context, it is important that all states, in particular neighboring states, abide by the arms embargo as called for in resolution 1701 (2006).
23. Syria has continued to deny any involvement in effecting breaches of the arms embargo. At the conclusion of the Syrian-Lebanese summit held in Damascus on 13th-14th August, the two parties agreed to work together to control the border and halt smuggling operations through action by the relevant authorities, and by coordinating activities on both sides of the border. The President of Lebanon has confirmed to me that special committees would be established to address this matter. I welcome this commitment. 5
24. Over the last few weeks, the Syrian army has intensified its deployment along the northern Syrian-Lebanese border. President Michel Suleiman indicated publicly that his Syrian counterpart President Bashar Al-Assad informed him that the deployment of troops along Lebanon's northern border was meant to contain smuggling activities, and falls within the framework of the outcome of the Lebanese-Syrian summit held in Damascus last August, and was in conformity with the requirements of resolution 1701 (2006). However, some Lebanese leaders have expressed their concern over the deployment.
25. Over the reporting period, Israeli aircraft have continued to violate the Lebanese airspace. The Government of Israel has continued to claim that they are carried out for security reasons, pending an improved security regime along the Lebanon-Syria border, and full enforcement of the arms embargo pursuant to resolution 1701 (2006). I have regularly called on Israel to cease these over-flights, which stand in violation of Lebanese sovereignty and Security Council resolutions.
26. Israel continues to occupy the northern part of Ghajar, which constitutes a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and resolution 1701 (2006). UNIFIL is actively working with the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defense Forces to find an early solution to this matter. I will report on this issue in more details to the Council in my next report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).
27. I am disturbed by the repeated exchanges of threats, through the media, between Israel and Hizbullah. I urge all parties to cease this public discourse which creates anxiety among civilian populations on both sides.
B. Extension of Lebanese Government Control over All Lebanese Territory
28. The President and the Prime Minister of Lebanon have reiterated their vital interest in extending the Government's authority over all Lebanese territory, so that it is the sole armed force in the country, with the exception of UN peacekeeping forces. They have also committed to improve the monitoring over the land borders to prevent unauthorized flows of weapons, munitions and personnel into the country. The Lebanese Armed Forces is taking steps within its capabilities to ensure peace and stability in the country, despite being overstretched as a result of numerous competing security challenges, in particular the clashes last spring and the violent events this summer in and around Tripoli. For that purpose, the Lebanese Armed Forces undertook at the beginning of September a temporary redeployment of troops from southern Lebanon in order to address these security concerns. I will elaborate on this issue in my forthcoming report on resolution 1701 (2006).
29. The continued existence and activities of militias as well as the allegations of widespread rearming and paramilitary training by groups on all side of Lebanon's political spectrum constitute a challenge for the Government of Lebanon's exclusive military authority.
30. I am gravely concerned by the emergence and apparent strengthening of extremist elements and foreign fighters based largely in and around Tripoli. This phenomenon is but another challenge to the consolidation of the Government's authority.
31. The Lebanese Armed Forces play a crucial role in strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty and control over all the country, thereby promoting stability in Lebanon and beyond. In this context, I call on donor countries to come forward and assist the LAF in meeting its obligations under relevant Security Council Resolutions.
C. Disbanding and Disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese Militias
32. The continued existence of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias undermines the consolidation of the Lebanese state and the stability of the country and the region. It is also incompatible with the objective of strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence. The most significant Lebanese militia is the armed component of Hizbullah. In addition, several Palestinian militias operate in the country, inside and outside of refugee camps.
33. Over the reporting period, there has been no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of militias as called for by the Taif Agreement and resolution 1559 (2004).
l Lebanese militias
34. The violence that engulfed Lebanon in May demonstrated yet again the serious threat that armed groups outside the control of the State pose to the stability of Lebanon. Hizbullah and other armed groups engaged in heavy clashes in many regions throughout the country, resulting in the loss of life, injuries, damage to property and general instability. Rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine gunfire were used in the fighting.
35. Since the signature of the Doha agreement, there have been a series of clashes particularly in and around Tripoli that have been both sectarian and political in nature. These incidents included the use of heavy gunfire, hand grenades and acts of vandalism in populated areas. They claimed more than 25 lives.
36. Over the reporting period, Lebanon has also witnessed a growing pattern of attacks against its Armed Forces. For instance, on 31th May the Army thwarted an attack from a man who was reportedly wearing an explosive belt (2 Kilos of TNT) and tried to blow himself up next to an LAF checkpoint outside Ain El Hilweh camp. On 11th June an exchange of fire occurred between the LAF and armed people at a checkpoint outside Ain El Hilweh camp. One soldier was injured. On 30th July, unidentified individuals fired assault weapons at an LAF checkpoint in Hermel, killing one soldier. On 13th August, a bomb went off in Tripoli killing fifteen people, including ten soldiers. On 29th September, four soldiers were killed by an explosion in Tripoli. I strongly condemn these terrorist attacks against the symbols of Lebanon's sovereignty. Such acts are also deeply worrying threats to the long-term stability of the country.
37. On 28th August, Army 1st Lieutenant Samer Hanna was killed when his helicopter was fired upon over Sojoud Hills in south Lebanon. Hizbullah admitted responsibility and surrendered one of its members to the judicial authorities. The military prosecutor has opened an investigation into the incident.
38. All these events are stark reminders of the urgency and importance of ensuring that the Government has the monopoly on the use of force in Lebanon. I am deeply concerned by the possibility that the scars left by the clashes last spring may in fact accelerate, if not prompt, a domestic arms race in Lebanon, with unforeseeable consequences. Para-military activity is also incompatible with the holding of free and fair parliamentary elections, scheduled for next spring. The understanding reached in the Taif Agreement in the aftermath of the civil war that all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias disband and disarm, led, at the time, to Lebanese militias, with the exception of Hizbullah, to give up their armed capacities. This understanding must be preserved to avoid the specter of a renewed confrontation amongst the Lebanese.
39. Hizbullah's maintenance of a major armed component and a para-military infrastructure separate from the state, including a secure network of communication, which the group itself deems an integral part of its arsenal, is a direct challenge to the authority of the Government of Lebanon and its security forces and prevents their exclusive control over the entire territory of Lebanon. Hizbullah's structures parallel and distinct from those of the State, also remain a threat to regional peace and security. I therefore reiterate my call on Hizbullah to comply with all relevant Security Council's resolutions, and urge all parties which maintain close ties with Hizbullah and have the ability to influence it, in particular Syria and Iran, to support its transformation into a political party proper, consistent with the requirements of the Taif Agreement and resolution 1559 (2004).
40. I am pleased to report to the Security Council that at the conclusion of the National Dialogue held in Doha, between 16th to 21st May, in the aftermath of the bloody clashes in Lebanon, the Lebanese political leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the principle of the Lebanese constitution and the Taif Agreement. The Lebanese leaders also committed themselves to prohibit the use of weapons or violence in any internal conflict that may arise to preserve the national partnership of coexistence. The Leaders also pledged to pursue their National Dialogue under the auspices of the President of the republic, to promote the Government of Lebanon's authority throughout its territory, and its relations with different groups in a way that would guarantee the security of the state and its citizens.
41. On 16th September, President Suleiman chaired the first session of the National Dialogue gathering the 14 Lebanese leaders who took part in the signing of the Doha agreement: Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Future Movement Leader Saad Hariri, PSP Leader Walid Jumblatt, FPM Leader Michel Aoun, MP Mohammad Raad (representing Hizbullah's Secretary-General), Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea, former President and Kataeb Party Leader Amine Gemayel, Ministers Elias Skaff and Mohammad Safadi, as well as Members of Parliament Hagop Pakradounian, Ghassan Tueni, Boutros Harb and Michel Murr. The session was also attended by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States. At the opening speech, President Suleiman stressed the need to develop a national defence strategy under the authority of the State.
42. A final communiqu was agreed upon after a three-hour discussion, composed of six points:
I. To launch talks on a defensive strategy as a priority in light of the multiple views of the Dialogue participants, in order to reach a common vision for this strategy based on the decisions of the National Dialogue and the Doha agreement.
II. To take prompt and serious action to resolve security tensions, and to reach agreement on a mechanism that would put an end to this condition in order to reinforce the efforts towards reconciliation in various areas, and spread it among all factions in Lebanon
III. To adopt a pact of honor committing the participants to the main points of the presidential inaugural speech, to refrain from any form of political provocation, to tone down the political and media discourse and to announce this commitment through the media
IV. To confirm the decisions reached in the previous Dialogue session, and to work towards implementing them.
V. The President will conduct bilateral talks in order to consolidate reconciliation, and to encourage meetings to enhance the chances of the success of the Dialogue in preparation for the next session.
VI. To set the next session of the Dialogue on 5th November 2008, at 11:00 at Baabda palace.
43. In the context of the launching of the National Dialogue, several reconciliation efforts have been initiated between the Lebanese leaders. I welcome the agreement signed on 8th September by over twenty key political and religious leaders of Tripoli to consolidate security and address humanitarian needs. I hope that these efforts will help prevent further violence, in particular in northern Lebanon and throughout the country. I urge all Lebanese leaders to promote reconciliation.
44. I welcome the launching of the National Dialogue under the auspices of the President of the Republic and under the sponsorship of the League of Arab States. I urge all Lebanese leaders to approach this process in a spirit of cooperation and to exert every effort towards a positive outcome.
l Palestinian Militias
45. Another serious threat to the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon is posed by non-Lebanese armed groups. Over the last six months, there has been no progress towards the disarming of Palestinian militias, in accordance with the agreement reached in the Lebanese National Dialogue of 2006 that Palestinian militias outside the camps would be disarmed.
46. In its policy statement, while rejecting the permanent resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon, the Government of Lebanon acknowledged their right for a dignified life and pledged to continue its efforts to resolve their humanitarian and social concerns inside and outside the camps. The policy statement emphasized the need for the Palestinians to respect the sovereignty of the State and its laws. The Government also expressed its intention to work with the Palestinians to implement the decisions of the National Dialogue of 2006, while assuming the responsibility to protect the camps from any attack.
47. During an historic visit to Lebanon on 28th and 29th August, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his support to the abovementioned decisions of the National Dialogue of 2006 and to the need for the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon. He commended the efforts by the Government of Lebanon to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
48. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah Al-Intifada maintain significant para-military infrastructures in and outside refugee camps, and along the border between Lebanon and Syria. As these two Palestinian militias are headquartered in Damascus and in line with relevant Security Council resolutions, I urge the Government of Syria, as a Member State, to ensure that these groups abide by the decisions of the Government of Lebanon and Lebanese law.
49. Continuing security incidents in Ein Al-Hilweh camp and the precarious situation of Al-Beddawi camp indicate that the restoration of law and order in the refugee camps will be a key to ensuring stability and security in Lebanon. The refugee camps provide safe haven for those who seek to escape the State's authority, such as militants, extremists, criminals and arms smugglers, in addition to Palestinian armed factions across all party lines. While security coordination and cooperation between the Lebanese security agencies and the Palestinian factions have improved, and attempts by the PLO to regain control of security in some camps have yielded some positive results, apart from the destroyed Nahr el-Bared camp, Lebanese authorities still do not maintain a permanent presence inside the camps. These facts constitute a reminder of the grave threat that armed groups pose to the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon, underscoring the urgency to disarm them.
50. Given the detrimental effects of living conditions in the camps on the wider security situation in Lebanon, I remain convinced that it is imperative that progress be made not only towards disbanding and disarming Palestinian militias in Lebanon, but also towards improving the conditions in which the refugee population lives, without prejudice to the settlement of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
51. In this context, I welcome the commitment by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the Government of Lebanon, negotiated with the relevant Palestinian authorities and announced at the 23rd June international donor conference held in Vienna for the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp, to take joint responsibility for security inside the reconstructed camp. It is my hope that this arrangement will serve as a model for Lebanon's other Palestinian refugee camps. I also wish to commend the Lebanese Government for its continued support to UNRWA's comprehensive programme for the improvement of living conditions in the camp areas, and encourage donors to provide the Agency with the resources required for this purpose.
52. While many Member states have responded generously to the appeals for funds for the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared, and the rehabilitation of surrounding Lebanese villages, issued by the Government of Lebanon and UNRWA, the amounts raised to date have been insufficient to permit this important project to proceed. UNRWA also faces an acute shortfall in the funds required to sustain the displaced population of some 27,000 persons in the period ahead. Bearing in mind the potential political and security implications of any failure to sustain those displaced, and make rapid and visible progress in reconstructing the original camp, I urge all those in a position to assist the United Nations' efforts to respond to the Nahr el-Bared crisis to do so expeditiously. 10
53. In conclusion, the clashes in May and violent incidents since then, have raised my concern that groups on all sides of the political spectrum may be re-arming in contravention of both the Taif Agreement and to resolution 1559 (2004). I call on Lebanese parties to halt immediately all efforts to acquire and build para-military capacities. In the meantime, I am mindful of the regional dimensions of this issue. Any foreign interference is in violation of Security Council resolutions.
54. I reiterate my firm conviction that the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should take place through a political process that will lead to the monopoly on the use of force by the Government of Lebanon throughout all of its territory. The ultimate purpose of disarmament is the establishment of a strong Lebanese state for all inhabitants of Lebanon, as the Taif Agreement stipulated. Such a political process presupposes, in the first instance, clear respect of the constitution from all parties as well as dialogue and a spirit of cooperation and conciliation between the various political forces in Lebanon.
D. Presidential Election Process
55. The most significant progress made in the implementation of the resolution during the reporting period has been the compliance with its requirement for a free and fair presidential election according to Lebanese constitutional rules, as called for repeatedly by the Security Council since 2004. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Emir of Qatar, his Prime Minister and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, after 18 attempts and postponements, the Lebanese Parliament convened on 25th May to elect a new President of the Republic as part of the comprehensive agreement reached in Doha. Some 200 Arab and foreign dignitaries attended the session. I was represented by my Special Envoy. General Michel Suleiman received 118 votes out of 127. He is the first president to take office in Lebanon since the withdrawal of the Syrian troops in 2005.
56. I am pleased to report to the Security Council that the election of the President has revived the constitutional political process in Lebanon, in particular the convening of Parliament, which was paralyzed since November 2006.
57. On 11th July, after seven weeks of intense negotiations, President Suleiman issued a decree forming a national unity government, headed by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. In accordance with the Doha agreement, the 30-member Cabinet included 16 seats allocated to the Parliamentary majority, 11 seats to the Opposition and the remaining three for the President. Keeping with prior practice, the new cabinet also reflects the confessional structure of the country. On 12th August, Parliament gave confidence to the new cabinet and its policy statement through an overwhelming majority.
58. On 30th September, the Lebanese parliament adopted a new electoral law based on the agreement reached in Doha in May. This new law paves the way for the holding of parliamentary election next spring. It also constitutes the final step in the implementation of the three operational points- of the Doha Accord (election of a President of the Republic; formation of a national unity government; adoption of an electoral law). 11
59. Since my last report to the Security Council, Lebanon was taken to the brink of civil war and back.
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60. The violence that erupted in Lebanon in May represented one of the greatest threats to the very foundations of the Lebanese State in recent years, and a painful reminder to all Lebanese of the threats posed by the existence of armed groups outside the control of the State. This continues to render as valid the remaining provisions of resolution 1559 (2005) as they relate to the disarmament of all armed groups and the extension of the Government's control throughout the country.
61. Notwithstanding this, I am pleased to report that the election of President Suleiman on 25th May 2008 represented a significant step forward in the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004). This election signaled the reactivation of Lebanon's constitutional process, which all parties in Lebanon have since recommitted themselves to.
62. In doing so, the Lebanese have taken a step further towards strengthening the sovereignty, stability, unity and political independence of their country. It is important that the parties continue on this path by implementing in full the provisions of the Doha Accord, including their commitment, inter alia, to refrain from the use of weapons to settle internal political disputes.
63. I am encouraged by the efforts of President Suleiman in this regard, and welcome the first session of the National Dialogue on 16th September to address the question of a national defence strategy and the status of such armed groups. This also represents a notable step in the implementation of the resolution.
64. It remains, however, that this process is in its earliest stages and the parties have far to go. I am aware of the sensitivity and complexity of the issues involved and the challenges that may arise as a result. If Lebanon is to accomplish the process it has started of consolidating its sovereignty and national unity, all Lebanese parties must fully engage in this national process in a spirit of genuine cooperation and commit themselves to achieving meaningful progress. I look forward to the next session scheduled for 5th November.
65. I remain concerned by the political assassinations and explosions that continue to plague Lebanon. I strongly condemn these acts of terror aimed at Lebanon's sovereignty, political stability and unity. I am in particular disturbed by what appears to be an emerging pattern of attacks against the Lebanese Armed Forces, a key prominent symbol of the authority of the state. I call on the Lebanese authorities to bring to justice all those who have perpetrated these crimes. These occurrences highlight the proliferation of weapons and armed groups that continue to operate in Lebanon, and whose existence is an ongoing violation of resolutions 1559(2004) and 1701(2006) and a direct threat to the stability of Lebanon and the region.
66. The issue of Hizbullah's weapons continues to be central to the political debate in Lebanon and to the Security Council's resolutions on Lebanon. Hizbullah's maintenance of separate military assets and infrastructure is a fundamental challenge to the government's attempts to consolidate the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese State and obstruct constructive dialogue on political and security issues.
67. I reiterate my conviction that the disarming and disbanding of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias should take place through an inclusive political dialogue that addresses the political interests of all Lebanese, but ultimately confirms the sole political and military authority of the Government of Lebanon. Recently, in convening the first session of the National Dialogue, the Lebanese seem to have taken - what I hope - will prove to be an important first step in this regard. I urge the Lebanese parties to maintain and develop this momentum. Ultimately, this process will require the support of Lebanon's neighbors.
68. I am encouraged by positive developments in relations between Lebanon and Syria and the initiation of process of normalization between the two historically close neighbors in mutual respect and in accordance with resolution 1680 (2006). In this regard, I welcome the outcome of the Syrian-Lebanese summit held in Damascus last August in which they announced important steps their countries would take to this end. These developments seem to signal that a new page has been opened in the relations between the two countries, three years after the withdrawal of the Syrian forces.
69. I look forward to the opening of embassies in Beirut and Damascus by the end of the year. I applaud the historical steps that have been taken so far by Presidents Sleimane and Al-Assad towards this goal. For the first time since their independence, the two neighboring states are establishing diplomatic relations. It is also important that Lebanon and Syria take concrete steps towards implementing all other points of agreement reached in Damascus, namely the activation of the joint committee to delineate their common border; the joint activity to improve security arrangements along that border; accelerating the work of the joint committee on missing people in both countries; reviewing bilateral relations objectively in ways that meet the interests of both countries; and trade and economic cooperation. I reiterate my conviction that all such measures are of mutual benefit to both countries and will help ensure stability and progress in their bilateral relationship, thus promoting stability in the region. I stand ready to support Lebanon and Syria towards these goals.
70. I would like to praise the efforts of the Ministerial Committee of the Arab League presided by the Prime Minister of Qatar and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States as well as its members, the foreign ministers of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Algeria, Djibouti, Oman, Morocco and Yemen, in promoting reconciliation among the Lebanese after the bloody clashes of last May. I wish in particular to commend His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani for hosting, facilitating and brokering the Doha agreement that led to the revival of Lebanese constitutional institutions.
71. The Doha Accord represents the political framework in which the Lebanese leaders decided to cooperate in seeking political stability and security. I remain concerned, however, that the combination of mistrust among the parties, political competition in the context of the parliamentary elections, and the continued presence of militias obstruct the full implementation of the Doha Accord and may lead to tensions and possible further insecurity and instability in Lebanon and beyond. It is imperative that Lebanon preserve its comprehensive political 13 framework of co-existence - as set out in the Taif Agreement - in an atmosphere free from intimidation.
72. I call on all parties and actors to fully abide by resolutions 1559 (2004), 1680 (2006) and 1701 (2006). I will continue my efforts for the purpose of the full implementation of these and all other relevant Security Council resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon.
Ban report on Resolution 1559 notes positive developments
By Nicholas Kimbrell
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 18, 2008
BEIRUT: UN chief Ban Ki-moon presented his eighth report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559 Thursday, noting several positive developments, like the normalization of Lebanese Syrian-relations, but warning of the dangers of Lebanon's many unresolved security threats.
"Since my last report to the Security Council, Lebanon was taken to the brink of civil war and back," Ban said.
The biannual report, presented to the Security Council, praised the election of President Michel Sleiman following the violence in May and the passage of a new electoral law for the spring parliamentary elections.
It also voiced serious concern over growing extremism in and around Tripoli, the rearmament of Lebanese militias, the escalation of rhetoric between Israel and Hizbullah and the continued presence of Syrian-backed Palestinian factions in east Lebanon.
"Over the past six months, Lebanon has experienced both the ruinous effects of sectarian violence and hope and optimism," Ban said. He expressed gratitude to Qatari leader Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for helping to facilitate an end to May's violence.
Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004, called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the disarmament and disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the free, fair and independent administration of a presidential election.
"During this reporting period, a president of the republic was finally elected, consistent with the provisions of the resolution, thus reviving the constitutional institutions of the country," Ban said in the report. He noted past successes in implementation like the withdrawal of Syrian troops and "free and credible parliamentary elections," both in 2005.
Ban also lauded the formalization of diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria and the pledge to exchange embassies by year's end as a positive step toward implementing Resolution 1559. "I commend the leaders of Lebanon and Syria for these new significant steps toward the full implementation of resolutions ... and look forward to the opening of embassies in both capitals," he said.
The normalization of relations, Ban suggested, could enable Lebanon and Syria to address other outstanding issues, particularly "the full delineation of their common border, which remains of crucial importance to a number of explicit operational requirements of resolutions 1559, 1680  and 1701 ." Ban noted a complaint issued by the Lebanese Cabinet in August regarding Syrian citizens allegedly trespassing on Lebanese territory in the Deir al-Ashayer area to dig wells, but added that the official status of that area remains disputed absent a formal border agreement.
He also expressed his concern that the border between Lebanon and Syria remains porous, saying that "a number of member states have also expressed to me their growing concern that weapons and fighters continue to flow across [the border.]"
The potential smuggling of weapons to armed groups in Lebanon directly contravenes Resolution 1559 and Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 summer war with Israel.
Ban condemned Israel's serial violations of Lebanon's airspace and the Jewish state's continued occupation of the northern part of Ghajar as "violation of Lebanon's sovereignty" and international agreements.
He also denounced Hizbullah's (and other armed groups') role in the May fighting and its status as a state within a state as threatening the authority of the Lebanese government and armed forces.
"Hizbullah's maintenance of separate military assets and infrastructure is a fundamental challenge to the government's attempts to consolidate the sovereignty and authority of the Lebanese state," he said.
He also cited the inflammatory rhetoric being exchanged between Israel and Hizbullah. "I am disturbed by the repeated exchanges of threats, through the media, between Israel and Hizbullah. I urge all parties to cease this public discourse which creates anxiety among civilian populations on both sides," Ban said.
Regarding the disputed Shebaa Farms area, occupied by Israel, the UN chief said he would continue his "cartographic and diplomatic work" and further report in his upcoming report on the implementation of Resolution 1701.
Chief among the secretary general's concerns was the possibility of renewed domestic violence in Lebanon.
"I am gravely concerned by the emergence and apparent strengthening of extremist elements and foreign fighters based largely in and around Tripoli. This phenomenon is but another challenge to the consolidation of the government's authority," Ban said.
He cited recent attacks aimed at the Lebanese Armed Forces as particularly troubling.
The UN chief added that "the clashes in May and violent incidents since then have raised my concern that groups on all sides of the political spectrum may be re-arming in contravention of both the Taif agreement and Resolution 1559."
He nonetheless expressed his confidence in Sleiman and the future of the national reconciliation and dialogue.
"If Lebanon is to accomplish the process it has started of consolidating its sovereignty and national unity, all Lebanese parties must fully engage in this national process in a spirit of genuine cooperation and commit themselves to achieving meaningful progress," the UN chief said.