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UN envoy calls again for dialogue to resolve tensions in Lebanon

UN envoy calls again for dialogue to resolve tensions in Lebanon

Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon
The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon today reiterated his concern over the crisis that has put on hold the work of key national institutions, and called once again for dialogue to resolve existing tensions.

“We continue to believe that all problems, no matter how sensitive, have to be resolved through dialogue and with all sides relying on the state institutions,” Michael Williams said in a statement in Beirut.

His comments followed a meeting with the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, during which he was accompanied by General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The situation in Lebanon has been marked by rising tensions in recent months and described by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a “domestic climate of uncertainty and fragility” in a report issued in October.

“The country’s political leaders must focus on strengthening its sovereignty and independence as well as its institutions,” Mr. Ban stated in that report.

Mr. Williams and Gen. Asarta also informed Mr. Berri about their joint visit last week to Israel to discuss the issue of a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the northern part of Ghajar, a village that straddles the so-called Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon.

Last month Israel announced its decision, in principle, to withdraw its army – the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) – from the area, which Mr. Ban welcomed as an important step towards the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which brought to an end the 2006 conflict between Israel and the Lebanese group Hizbollah.

“We believe this is an important development,” said Mr. Williams. “At the same time, as we explained to Speaker Berri today, the withdrawal of the IDF from northern Ghajar is but a first step towards resolving the status of Ghajar so that Lebanese sovereignty is fully restored over all Lebanese territory and that also the humanitarian requirements of the villagers are met.”

Mr. Williams added that he and Gen. Asarta are planning to meet later this week with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Sleiman.