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Four years after end of Israel-Hizbollah war, more progress needed – UN envoy

Four years after end of Israel-Hizbollah war, more progress needed – UN envoy

Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
The Security Council resolution that ended the war that broke out between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah four years ago this week has helped to ensure stability, but the parties must do more to meet their commitments, a senior United Nations official said today.

“Stated commitment is good, implementation in practice is better,” UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams told reporters following his closed-door briefing to the Council.

He said he welcomed the continued commitment of all parties to the full implementation of resolution 1701, which ended the conflict that erupted in 2006, as well as calls for respect for the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

“But I also told the Council that all parties must do far more to meet their obligations,” he said, echoing what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701, which was made public yesterday.

In his report, Mr. Ban stated that a number of violations occurred during the past several months and that “no progress was recorded with regard to key obligations” under the resolution.

The Secretary-General stressed that it is the responsibility of the parties to focus on all outstanding issues so that they can reach a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution, as envisaged in the resolution. “At the moment, they are not doing enough in this regard,” he said.

Mr. Williams, who briefed the 15-member body on the report, noted that the arrangements put in place by the resolution have allowed the longest period of stability between the parties since the 1970s.

“No one on either side of the Blue Line has been killed by hostile military action from the other side in the past four years.”

He added that the presence of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and its cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has been the “backbone” of everything that has been achieved under resolution 1701.

UNIFIL personnel have recently been the target of protests and attacks by villagers in southern Lebanon in response to routine military exercises carried out by the mission. Both the Special Coordinator and the Council have called for ensuring the safety and freedom of movement of the peacekeepers in their area of operations, which is critical for discharging their mandate.

“I can confirm that the situation in the south is now much better,” Mr. Williams reported, adding that he believes that calm and stability have been restored.

Regarding the village of Ghajar, he stated that the failure of Israeli forces to withdraw from the northern part of the village – which lies within Lebanese territory – is a clear violation of resolution 1701. “I deeply regret that this has not been achieved in four years.”