Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

23 May 2000



Presidential Statement Stresses Need To Achieve Comprehensive, Just, Lasting Peace in Middle East

The Security Council this afternoon welcomed and strongly endorsed the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), regarding the withdrawal from all Lebanese territories of Israel (document S/2000/460). As it did so, the Council stressed again the importance of, and the need to achieve, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all relevant Security Council resolutions.

In a statement read out by its President, Wang Yingfan (China), the Council welcomed the intention of the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures to enable the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to confirm that a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon has taken place in compliance with resolution 425 (1978); and to take all necessary steps in order to deal with possible eventualities, bearing in mind that cooperation of all the parties will be essential.

Also by the statement, the Council called upon the States and other parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and to cooperate with UNIFIL and the United Nations to ensure a full implementation of the resolutions. The Council shared the view of the Secretary-General that it is crucial that the States and other parties concerned do their part to calm the situation; ensure the safety of the civilian population; and cooperate fully with the United Nations in its efforts to stabilize the situation, to restore international peace and security and to assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area following the confirmation of withdrawal.

The Council fully endorsed the requirements put forward by the Secretary-General for confirming the compliance of all parties concerned with resolution 425 (1978), called upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully in implementing the recommendations of the Secretary-General, and requested the Secretary-General to report on their fulfilment of the requirements when he reports on the withdrawal.

The Council welcomed the Secretary-General's decision to send his Special Envoy back to the region immediately to ensure that the requirements put forward by the Secretary-General are met, and to ensure the commitment of all the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the United Nations in the complete implementation of resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978).

Commending UNIFIL’s troops and troop-contributing countries for their commitment to the cause of international peace and security under difficult circumstances, the Council stressed its concern that all parties cooperate with the United Nations, and recalled the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel of 1994.

The meeting, which was called to order at 12:02 p.m., was adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement, which will be issued as document S/PRST/2000/18, reads as follows:

Secretary-General's Report

A report of the Secretary-General before the Security Council (document S/2000/460) sets out the minimum conditions and requirements which have to be met for the confirmation of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, in accordance with Council resolution 425 (1978). That resolution called on Israel to withdraw from all Lebanese territory and, at the request of the Government of Lebanon, established the UNIFIL under the authority of the Security Council.

The Government of Israel, in a formal notification to the Secretary-General, said it would withdraw its forces from Lebanon by July "in full accordance with Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978)". It further informed the Secretary-General that in doing so, it intended "to cooperate fully with the United Nations".

According to the Secretary-General's report, an important first step would be for the parties addressed in the report -- Israel, Lebanon and Syria -- to provide assurances that their full cooperation would be given in the implementation of the Secretary-General's recommendations.

For the practical purpose of confirming the Israeli withdrawal, the report states that the United Nations needs to identify a line to be adopted conforming to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon. In the southern part of the country, Lebanon shares a border with Israel and, in the eastern part, with Syria.

In consultations with the parties, the United Nations stressed that it was not seeking to establish an international border, but rather was requesting their help and that of others in the purely technical exercise of identifying a line for the purpose of confirming compliance with resolution 425 (1978). Whatever line the United Nations uses would be without prejudice to future border agreements between the Member States concerned, the report states.

Among the requirements for confirming the Israeli withdrawal are: Israel must withdraw its military and civilian personnel from all Lebanese territory; dismantle the South Lebanon Army's (SLA) command structure; stop logistical support and supplies to the SLA; and remove or destroy the SLA's heavy weapons. Israel must also hand over prisoners currently held in Al-Khiam detention centre. The full cooperation of Israel would be required in identifying the withdrawal line.

From the Government of Lebanon, the report states that the Secretary-General had requested full cooperation in the process of identifying on the ground the line to be used to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces. The return of the effective authority of the Government of Lebanon would require its decisive and prompt action to resume public services as well as law and order functions, and to resume its responsibility for providing security and safety throughout the area.

From the Government of Syria, the United Nations would require full cooperation on all relevant matters, including identification of the portion of the Lebanese-Syrian boundary necessary to confirm the withdrawal.

The report states that Lebanese and other armed groups in Lebanon, and Member States with influence over them, must cooperate with and support UNIFIL to implement resolution 425 (1978).

The Secretary-General also emphasized that during and after the withdrawal, all interested parties should exercise maximum restraint both in their actions and in their public statements.

The report states that UNIFIL would require phased reinforcement to carry out its responsibilities in the light of the current and projected security situation in southern Lebanon, as well as taking into account the additional territory that it would have to cover following the Israeli withdrawal. The total troop strength for carrying out the tasks related to confirming the withdrawal would increase from the present level of 4,513 to approximately 5,600.

Once the Israeli withdrawal is confirmed, and if the security situation permitted, the report says UNIFIL would have to be immediately reinforced with two mechanized infantry battalions, and the engineer component of the Force would be increased to regimental level. The reinforcement would have to be deployed immediately after the withdrawal had been confirmed. Monitoring equipment, including that for airspace and territorial waters, would also be required at that point. With those reinforcements, the report indicates that UNIFIL's strength would be brought to a total of eight battalions plus appropriate support units, or approximately 7,935 peacekeepers.

If the conditions identified in the report did not materialize in a timely manner, the Secretary-General warns that UNIFIL would not be in a position to carry out its mandated tasks. "In such a situation I would revert to the Security Council with recommendations which, in the absence of viable alternatives, may have to include the withdrawal of UNIFIL."

The Secretary-General emphasized that while resolution 425 (1978) stood alone in its requirements, it was his hope that full implementation of the resolution would help spur progress in the remaining tracks of the Middle East peace process, including the Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian ones. The attainment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on the principle of land for peace and the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and other relevant resolutions, was the ultimate common objective.

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