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II. Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004)
C. Disbanding and disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
35. With respect to the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon, I am pleased to report that, pursuant to the adoption in August 2010 by Lebanon’s Parliament of amendments to the Labour Code and the Social Security Law, that lifted some of the restrictions on work for Palestinian refugees in the country, the Lebanese caretaker Minister of Labour, Boutros Harb, signed on 22 February an administrative decree regulating the implementation of those amendments. This represents an important and positive step that, once fully implemented, will contribute to improving the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
36. In this context, I am glad to report that the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization has reiterated its call upon all Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon and adhere to Lebanese law and security requirements.
37. The presence of Palestinian armed groups outside the camps continues to challenge the ability of Lebanon to exercise full sovereignty over its territory. I have called upon the Government of Lebanon to dismantle the Damascus-headquartered PFLP-GC and Fatah Al-Intifada military bases in the country, and on the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to cooperate with those efforts. Regrettably, there has been no progress during the reporting period towards the disarming of such groups, as called for and agreed upon by Lebanese leaders at the National Dialogue session of 2006 and reaffirmed in subsequent sessions of the National Dialogue since 2008.
38. The situation in most of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon has remained relatively stable, although a few shooting incidents and explosions have been registered in some of the camps, in particular in Ain al-Hilweh, where, as recently as 31 March, clashes erupted between rival groups inside the camp. The threat of internal violence that could potentially spill over into surrounding areas still exists in a number of camps, as some of them continue to provide safe haven for those who seek to escape the authority of the State.
39. Notwithstanding those incidents, Lebanese authorities have acknowledged the existence of good cooperation between the Lebanese Armed Forces and Palestinian security officials in the camps. However, Lebanese authorities do not maintain a permanent presence inside the camps, despite the fact that the Cairo agreement of 1969 — which permitted the presence of Palestinian armed forces in the refugee camps — was annulled by the Lebanese Parliament in 1987. More will need to be done to contain potential tension in the camps.
40. The situation of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon remains, by and large, dire. The United Nations continues to urge the Lebanese authorities to improve the conditions in which Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, without prejudice to the eventual resolution of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement in the region, in particular given the detrimental effects of dismal living conditions on the wider security situation.
47. I therefore call on Lebanese leaders to reconvene, under the auspices of President Sleiman, the National Dialogue. Lebanese leaders must work together to maintain stability, avoid hostile and incendiary rhetoric, and prevent the use of violence, in particular the resort to arms, in the domestic political arena. Lebanese leaders must also make progress towards adopting a national defence strategy that will address the issue of armed groups outside the control of the State and lead to their disarmament, to achieve the ultimate goal of putting all arms in Lebanon under the sole control of the Government.
48. In that context, I expect the next Government of Lebanon to adhere to resolution 1559 (2004) and all other Security Council resolutions pertaining to Lebanon. I welcome the positive statements of Prime Minister Designate Miqati, in which he expressed his commitment to Lebanon’s international obligations. I also look forward to the next Government of Lebanon translating this commitment into tangible action, beginning with the implementation of decisions taken in the past by the National Dialogue, such as the dismantling of Palestinian military bases outside the refugee camps.
49. On that issue, there has been no progress. Paramilitary infrastructures outside the refugee camps belonging to the Damascus-headquartered PFLP-GC and Fatah Al-Intifadah continue to be of great concern to me. They remain beyond the authority of the Lebanese State, despite the decision taken by the National Dialogue in 2006 and reiterated several times since. The bases, most of which straddle the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, undermine Lebanese sovereignty and challenge the country’s ability to manage its land borders. Mindful that the two militias maintain close regional ties, I renew my call upon the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to assist in this process.
51. I call upon the next Government of Lebanon, when it is formed, to continue the efforts undertaken by former Prime Ministers Siniora and Hariri to help to alleviate the situation in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, which, I fear, is vulnerable to exploitation for political purposes. Conditions faced by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon remain dismal. I recall the commendable step taken in 2010 by Lebanon to ease restrictions on the access of refugees to the labour market. I also note, however, that more needs to be done to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees, without prejudice to an overall resolution of the Palestinian refugee questions within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement. I am convinced that addressing the difficult conditions of Palestinian refugees will have a positive impact on the coexistence of Lebanese and Palestinians, and hence on national security and stability. I therefore call upon Lebanese and Palestinian authorities to continue their productive contacts, and upon Member States to offer whatever assistance may be required to continue the consolidation of political dialogue and security in the camps.