Prevailing Israeli-Lebanese calm should lead to greater progress, UN report finds

25 November 2008

While pleased that relative calm continues to prevail between Israel and Lebanon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is disturbed by the repeated exchanges of threats between Israel and Hizbollah and believes greater progress should have been made since the adoption of the United Nations resolution that helped end fighting between them two years ago.

“Further progress in the implementation of the resolution is increasingly overdue,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report to the Security Council on resolution 1701.

The 2006 resolution, which helped end the war between Israel and Hizbollah that summer, also called for renewed respect for the Blue Line separating Israeli and Lebanese forces, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

The Secretary-General says he remains concerned by the presence of armed groups operating inside Lebanon, beyond the control of the State, and he says that he firmly believes that key issues are to be resolved through diplomatic means.

“I underline the importance of ensuring that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of unauthorized armed personnel, assets and weapons,” states Mr. Ban, who also calls on the Lebanese Government to ensure full freedom of movement for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in its area of operations.

The political climate in Lebanon has improved in recent months, notes Mr. Ban, with the election of President Michel Suleiman on 25 May, the subsequent formation of a Government of national unity and the launching of a national dialogue leading to a greater degree of stability.

“In spite of these positive developments, a number of serious security incidents continued to threaten Lebanon’s stability,” he states. “While Lebanese leaders and institutions have reacted swiftly to contain violence and investigate those incidents, they still constitute a stark reminder of the fragility of the gains made as a result of political agreements.”

Meanwhile, the political situation in Israel in recent months has been marked by a degree of “uncertainty,” with new elections slated to be held on 10 February next year.

In addition, the Secretary-General welcomes the decision by Lebanon and Syria to further improve joint security along their common border. He urges them to take “practical and concrete steps in the near future” to delineate their common border, and pledges, in the meantime, to continue his diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue of the Shab’a Farms area.

“The general improvement of the situation in Lebanon, together with the continued stability in the area of operations and encouraging prospects in the region create a potential momentum that both Lebanon and Israel must seize to make bold strides towards a permanent ceasefire and long-term solution as prescribed by resolution 1701,” he writes.

Mr. Ban stresses that the parties must make greater efforts to resolve the pending issues that hinder a permanent ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel. “Achieving this will require the determination and political will of all parties to the conflict, as well as continued strong international support,” he says.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report tomorrow, as well as hear a briefing from the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams.


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