Noting that the security situation along the Israeli-Lebanese border is still fragile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on both sides to step up efforts to move from the current state of cessation of hostilities, as agreed to in August 2006, to a permanent ceasefire.
In his latest report to the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1701, made public today, Mr. Ban states that recent months have been marked by an increase in political tensions in Lebanon, as well as the most serious incident to have taken place since the 2006 conflict ended.
Resolution 1701 brought to an end the conflict that took place between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah four years ago. It also 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.
For the first time in four years, direct fighting broke out on 3 August between Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), resulting in casualties on both sides.
“This incident, the most serious to have taken place since the cessation of hostilities, illustrated the fragility of the security environment across the Blue Line and raised the spectre of a serious escalation between the parties,” Mr. Ban writes.
He urges the parties to do everything in their power to ensure that this incident remains an isolated one, and to cooperate closely with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in its efforts to prevent such an event from recurring.
“I again urge both parties to do their utmost to prevent violations of the Blue Line, to act with maximum restraint and to refrain from taking any measures close to the Blue Line that could lead to misunderstandings or be perceived by the other side as provocative,” he says.
“The situation continues to be volatile and more work remains to be done by the parties to advance the full implementation of resolution 1701,” he adds.
The Secretary-General says that sustained efforts are needed to ensure that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese Government and of UNIFIL, in accordance with resolution 1701.
Another priority is to resolve the issue of the continued occupation by the IDF of the northern part of the town of Ghajar and the adjacent area north of the Blue Line, Mr. Ban states, urging Israel to withdraw its forces as called for in the 2006 resolution.
He also calls on Israel to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty by immediately halting all overflights of Lebanese territory, which he says exacerbate tensions in southern Lebanon and negatively impact the credibility of the LAF and UNIFIL.
Voicing concern about the “marked rise” in political tensions in Lebanon and recent challenges to State authority by Hizbollah and some of its allies, Mr. Ban calls on Lebanese leaders to continue to “work towards preventing a political crisis that some in Lebanon fear could erupt into violence.”
He also expresses deep concern about the “widespread proliferation” of weapons in Lebanon and the continued presence of armed groups in the country operating outside the control of the State, which poses a challenge to the Government’s ability to exercise its full sovereignty and control over its territory, and violates resolution 1701.
Also vital to enable Lebanon to extend its control and to exercise its full sovereignty over all of its territory is the delineation and demarcation of the border between Lebanon and Syria. The Secretary-General calls on both countries to make further progress on this issue, and welcomes their renewed intentions to delineate their common border.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ban says he intends to continue his diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the issue of the Shab’a Farms, another disputed area, and once again calls on Israel and Syria to submit their responses to the provisional definition of the Shab’a Farms area that he had provided on the basis of the best available information.