A senior United Nations official warned today that the presence of heavily-armed militias and a recent escalation of rhetoric and confrontation have created an extremely dangerous situation in Lebanon, calling on all parties to do their utmost to reduce tensions.
“We know that in Lebanon you have militias which are very heavily armed and increasingly so. This creates a hyper-dangerous situation,” Terje Roed-Larsen told reporters after providing a closed-door briefing to the Security Council.
Mr. Roed-Larsen is the UN Special Envoy for the Implementation of Resolution 1559, which was adopted by the Council in 2004 amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon. It calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.
He said he believed that the situation in Lebanon is “the most critical issue of international peace and security today,” and instability in the country will have ripple effects across the region.
“This is why all parties in Lebanon, in the region and beyond must now shoulder their responsibilities to stop irresponsible and reckless rhetoric,” the official stated.
“Critical to this is also the disbanding and disarming of all militias,” he added. “Militias holding arms in Lebanon today is an intimidation in itself, particularly when it is paired with reckless and irresponsible rhetoric.”
In his latest report on the implementation of resolution 1559, which Mr. Roed-Larsen presented today to the Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern about the recent escalation of political tensions in Lebanon, and urged all parties to focus on strengthening the country’s sovereignty and security and on resolving issues such as the presence of armed militias.
“I remain keenly aware that the combination of mistrust among the parties and the continued presence of militias could lead to tensions and possible insecurity and instability in Lebanon and beyond,” he wrote in the report. “The country should not be used as a staging ground for furthering regional aspirations or promoting conflict.”
Mr. Roed-Larsen told reporters he believed that the Middle East is at “an extremely critical juncture,” adding that there are “crosswinds and a hurricane blowing up” in the region.
“And in the middle of those crosswinds, there is a tent standing, and that tent is critically upheld by two poles. One is the Palestinian one and the other one is the Lebanese. If one of those poles cracks, the whole tent will go down.”