Little progress towards lasting peace between Israel, Lebanon, says UN official

10 March 2009
Lebanon Special Coordinator Michael Williams briefs media

Although the ceasefire is still in place, very little progress has been made on the Security Council resolution which helped end fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the armed group Hizbollah two years ago, the top United Nations representative to Lebanon said today.

“The past months have witnessed the most serious violations by both parties of their obligations under [resolution] 1701 since it was adopted [in August 2006], but despite these violations the cessation of hostilities continues to hold,” Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, told reporters in New York after briefing the Council.

He highlighted the continued cessation of hostilities, the longest period of stability that southern Lebanon and northern Israel have known in decades, and the healthy internal political situation in Lebanon in the run up to general elections in June as positive signs for long-term peace between the countries.

In addition, he pointed to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria and moves towards reconciliation in the wider Arab world as having an “enormously positive effect on the ground” in Lebanon.

“The long-standing issue of prisoners and captives held by Hizbollah and Israel was, as you know, resolved last year,” he added.

“However, there also many other issues within 1701 where very little progress has been achieved,” Mr. Williams said.

The 2006 resolution called for renewed respect for the Blue Line separating the Lebanese forces and IDF, the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

The Special Coordinator noted that although the process of national dialogue in Lebanon, under President Michel Suleiman, has contributed towards national stability, the question of the disarmament of armed groups is only making slow progress.

“You as journalists and of observers of conflict in very many countries, not just in the Middle East, know how difficult it is to take the weapons out of politics,” Mr. Williams said. “I think that needs to be done. It needs to be a Lebanese-led process.”

With regard to border control and border management, he said there had been some improvement with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria and much closer coordination between the relevant authorities.

Although Lebanon had appointed a representative to the Joint Border Committee established between the two countries and sent an ambassador to Damascus, Syria had not done either yet, the Special Coordinator said.

Another issue Mr. Williams highlighted was the IDF’s occupation of the northern part of the village of Ghajar, situated on Lebanon’s border with the Golan.

He expressed hope that the formation of a new Israeli government following elections in February would lead to another IDF withdrawal from the village and progress on the issue of cluster bombs and munitions.


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