Prolonged presidential stand-off in Lebanon must end, UN report stresses

Prolonged presidential stand-off in Lebanon must end, UN report stresses

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Lebanon's people “have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in their difficult history” and they and their political representatives must rise to the occasion and elect a president without any preconditions other than those outlined in the national constitution, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the troubled country.

Lebanon's people “have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in their difficult history” and they and their political representatives must rise to the occasion and elect a president without any preconditions other than those outlined in the national constitution, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the troubled country.

“Such an election would signify a major milestone on the road towards the full re-assertion of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence, as is the goal of resolution 1559,” Mr. Ban writes, referring to the Security Council resolution from 2004 that calls for free and fair presidential elections without interference from foreign influences.

The Lebanese Parliament has been unable to agree on a president for months, with the top office having been vacant since last November, despite repeated scheduled plans to conduct a vote.

“I regret that, despite the numerous calls of the Lebanese people and the international community, such an election has still not taken place in Lebanon,” Mr. Ban says in the report, published today.

“I firmly believe that the leaders of Lebanon must think first and foremost about the future of their country and transcend sectarian and individual interests. Parliament, which has not met in more than a year, must be allowed to convene urgently to fulfil its constitutional duties in order to elect a president without further delay.”

He adds that free and fair elections must be held immediately, warning that further delay will only complicate the adoption of electoral laws and the holding of parliamentary polls on schedule next year.

The Secretary-General also states that, “three years after Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon, [the] time has come for a re-definition and formalization of ties between the two historically close neighbours, in mutual respect for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.”

He calls on the two countries to establish full diplomatic relations and delineate their shared border, especially in the Shab'a Farms area, to promote the normalization of relations. In addition, the issue of Lebanese detainees in Syrian custody should also be tackled.

Turning to the disbanding of militias operating in Lebanese territory, the report says it is high time “to set aside this remaining vestige of the past” and disarm and disband all such remaining groups.

“Hizbollah's maintenance of a paramilitary capacity poses a key challenge to the Government's monopoly on the legitimate use of force.”

But it notes that the disarming and disbanding process should occur “through an inclusive political dialogue that addresses the political and economic interests of all the Lebanese.”

The report also voices concern about the continued challenges posed by the conditions inside Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.