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II. Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004)
C. Disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
21. Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias continue to operate in the country outside of the Government’s control in serious violation of resolution 1559 (2004). The armed component of Hizbullah remains the most significant Lebanese militia in the country. In addition, there are a number of Palestinian armed groups operating in the country inside and outside the refugee camps. Over the reporting period, there has been no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias as called for in the Taif Agreement and resolution 1559 (2004).
28. I continue to believe that the disarmament of armed groups can best be achieved through a Lebanese-led political process. This political process has taken the form of the Lebanese National Dialogue. The President announced on 28 February the names of the participants in the next round of the National Dialogue, which has now grown from a total of 15 participants to 20. All major parties and religions are represented in this forum to discuss a national defence strategy for Lebanon. I am pleased to report that President Sleiman reconvened the National Dialogue on 9 March, for the first time since the parliamentary elections of 2009. Another session was held on 15 April.
29. In line with the Government’s ministerial declaration, the participants in the National Dialogue reaffirmed the agreement reached in the National Dialogue of 2006 to eliminate Palestinian weapons outside the camps and deal with the issues related to security and arms inside the camps. The tense regional situation has overshadowed the debates and there was no substantive discussion of Hizbullah’s arms, although it remains a major subject of debate among the participants. They further decided to continue discussions on a national defence strategy and to try, through the committee of experts appointed at a previous session of the Dialogue, to identify areas of commonality between the different opinions voiced on this matter. Finally, the participants committed themselves to promote reconciliation and to lower political rhetoric in the country. The next session is scheduled for 3 June.
30. The presence of Palestinian armed groups outside the camps continues to pose a threat to the stability of Lebanon and challenges Lebanese sovereignty. Regrettably, over the past six months, there has been no progress towards the disarming of such groups, in accordance with the agreement, reached at the National Dialogue sessions of 2006 and reaffirmed by the National Dialogue and in the ministerial statement, that Palestinian outposts outside the camps would be disarmed.
31. I note in this regard the statement by the leader of Fatah al-Intifada, Abu Musa, on 3 March that his organization’s paramilitary bases could be relocated in coordination with the Lebanese authorities and that Palestinian weapons should be considered as part of the discussion on Lebanon’s national defence strategy in the National Dialogue. This statement came two months after the leader of Fatah al-Intifada had publicly rejected any attempt to dismantle the Palestinian military bases in the Beka’a Valley and south of Beirut.
32. A bomb exploded on 26 December 2009 in a facility reportedly used by Hamas in the southern Beirut quarter of Haret Hreik. At least two men identified as Hamas members were killed in the incident. The circumstances of the explosion remain unclear but underline the risks posed by the presence of weapons outside Government control.
33. On 7 December, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, for the first time since the formation of the new Government visited Beirut, where he reiterated publicly his call on the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty of the State, its laws and security requirements. More recently, President Abbas asserted that the Government of Lebanon should be responsible for security on Lebanese soil and that Palestinian arms need not be maintained inside or outside the camps. I commend the position taken by President Abbas.
34. The situation inside the Palestinian refugee camps remains a source of concern, although it has been generally calm over the reporting period. On a few occasions, security incidents were reported, in particular on 15 February, when fighting between members of Fatah and a radical Islamist movement in Ain al-Hilweh resulted in one fatality. The refugee camps continue to provide a safe haven for those who seek to escape the State’s authority, such as militants, extremists, criminals and arms smugglers, in addition to Palestinian armed factions across all party lines. Internal violence could potentially spill over into surrounding areas. While security coordination and cooperation between the Lebanese security agencies and the Palestinian factions have improved, Lebanese authorities do not maintain a permanent presence inside the camps, despite the fact that the Cairo agreement of 1969, which regulated the presence of Palestinian armed forces in the refugee camps, was annulled by the Lebanese Parliament in 1987. More needs to be done to contain potential tension in the camps.
35. Given the detrimental effects of dismal living conditions in the camps on the wider security situation in Lebanon, there needs to be further progress towards improving the conditions in which Palestine refugees live in Lebanon, without prejudice to the eventual resolution of the Palestine refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement in the region. Prime Minister Hariri has affirmed to President Abbas and to the United Nations that his Government is committed to addressing the dire socio-economic situation of the Palestine refugee community as a matter of priority. I look forward to continued and accelerated work by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee in the coming period.
42. I urge the Government of Lebanon and the participants in the National Dialogue to finally implement decisions previously agreed upon and since reiterated in the Government’s ministerial declaration, such as those concerning the disarmament of Palestinian groups outside the refugee camps and the issue of arms inside the camps. I remain deeply concerned at the maintenance of paramilitary infrastructures by Palestinian militias outside the camps which pose a threat to the stability of Lebanon.