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Équipe indépendante d’évaluation de la frontière libanaise - Rapport (extraits)
26 June 2007
Letter dated 26 June 2007 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council
I have the honour to refer to my report of 14 March 2007 (S/2007/147) on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). In its presidential statement of 17 April 2007 (S/PRST/2007/12), the Security Council endorsed my suggestion to evaluate the situation along the entire Lebanese-Syrian border and invited me “to dispatch at the earliest, in close liaison with the Lebanese Government, an independent assessment mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border ... and to report back to the Council ... on its findings and recommendations in this regard”.
As I informed the President of the Security Council in my letter dated 23 May 2007, I decided to establish such a mission, referred to as the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team. I have received the mission report from the Team leader, Lasse Christensen (Denmark). I fully support its recommendations and will provide further substantive comments in my next report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).
In the meantime, I have the honour to attach the mission report and should be grateful if you would bring it to the attention of the members of the Security Council.
Report of the Lebanon Independent Border
By paragraph 14 of its resolution 1701 (2006), the Security Council called upon the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders and all entry points to prevent the entry into Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel. At the request of the Government of Lebanon a United Nations team of border police experts was dispatched to Lebanon in September 2006 and February 2007 to assess the situation along the border and provide the Security Council with its findings and recommendations. By its presidential statement of 17 April 2007 (S/PRST/2007/12), the Council invited the Secretary-General to dispatch at the earliest, in close liaison with the Government of Lebanon, an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border and to report back to the Council on its findings and recommendations in that regard.
The United Nations Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team visited Lebanon from 27 May to 15 June 2007. The Team worked in close cooperation with the Government of Lebanon and border security authorities and received unimpeded support in its efforts to assess all aspects of Lebanese border security with special emphasis on preventive measures against arms smuggling. The Team held talks with Government officials and the directors of the four agencies directly involved in border security management: the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Security, the Internal Security Force and General Customs.
All four land border crossing points and another one to be made operational in July 2007 were visited as well as the international airport of Beirut and the Beirut seaport. A number of locations along the “Green Border” with the Syrian Arab Republic were visited in order to assess the diverse conditions of the border, including the different forms of terrain, the extraordinary conditions created by the Palestinian cross-border military strongholds and areas affected by border delineation disputes.
II. Mandate, approach and methodology of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team
15. In general, the time available to the Team did not allow for building real working relations with the local authorities in charge at the borders, and offered little possibility to verify or cross-check some statements made to the Team and its entourage. The fact that the Syrian Arab Republic had closed its border operations at the three northern border posts, following the armed operations against the Palestinian camp of Nahr-el-Bared, prevented the Team from witnessing the border authorities performing their duties. Also, the time spent at some locations near Palestinian strongholds at the Syrian border was rather short, for security reasons.
A. Border description
21. A major concern in terms of border security lies in several heavily armed Palestinian military strongholds covering both sides of the borderline. These camps constitute pockets of territory where the Lebanese security forces are denied the possibility to exercise their mandate. The Lebanese Armed Forces confine themselves to controlling and sealing off the surroundings of these camps, as in Haloua, south-east of Masnaa.
IV. Facts and findings
Location of Palestinian cross-border stronghold east of Qoussaya town
142. The Palestinian stronghold is located around the mountain ridge of Er Rouss overlooking the Békaa Valley. The Palestinian area extends from Lebanese territory into the Syrian Arab Republic, with the official borderline running through the area. There is no presence of Lebanese authorities in the Palestinian-controlled area, leaving the border itself uncontrolled and to some extent outside the vision of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The Team did not have access to the Palestinian-controlled area. The completely uncontrolled area creates very good conditions for illegal and unhindered cross-border activities, as recently documented by information received by the Team from the Lebanese Government. The information is identical to that reported to the Security Council by the Special Envoy for the Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).
143. The Palestinian area itself is cordoned off by checkpoints and observation posts of the Lebanese Armed Forces. Their location would appear to have been chosen more for the purposes of territorial defence than for ensuring border security, given that they are conspicuous and heavily fortified by armoured personnel carriers.
Location of Palestinian cross-border stronghold at Haloua (location X)
146. The Palestinian stronghold adjacent to the disputed area under location IX is located in the valley leading from Haloua to the Damascus highway and the surrounding high ground. It extends from Lebanese territory north-east in to the Syrian Arab Republic proper; the official border runs through the area and touches the disputed area (IX) to the south-east.
147. There is no presence of Lebanese authority in the Palestinian-controlled area; the border itself is uncontrolled and to some extent outside the vision of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The area is cordoned off by checkpoints and observation posts of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The location of checkpoints and observation posts, which are conspicuous and heavily fortified by armoured personnel carriers and tanks, appears to have been chosen more for the purposes of territorial defence than for ensuring border security. The Team was unable to enter the Palestinian-controlled area.
148. The completely uncontrolled area creates highly favourable conditions for illegal and unhindered cross-border activities.
167. In the recent history of Lebanon, border security at the Syrian border is a new exercise for all the security agencies. Lebanese security agencies have taken substantial measures to secure this section of the country’s border against arms smuggling, mostly through the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces in the area. Security agencies demonstrate a good level of understanding of the nature of their duties in relation to the provisions of resolution 1701 (2006). Despite those measures, the current border control strategy, the nature of the terrain, the current state of equipment available and training, as well as the processes and infrastructures at official border crossing points make it still possible for arms to be smuggled undetected across the border. The Team would, however, like to point out that, even in an unfavourable environment, the assets and equipment currently available would make it reasonable to expect more success in the detection of cross-border weapons smuggling. Beirut airport and, in particular, Beirut seaport benefit from a more efficient degree of control in the processing of passengers and cargo.
168. The presence of armed Palestinian camps in the border zone constitutes a major obstacle to both the concept of border security and the implementation of an efficient, integrated border security system. In addition, the incomplete delineation of the border with the Syrian Arab Republic further hampers border control and demotivates border security agencies when having to intervene in areas that are not clearly demarked. In that regard, a political agreement is urgently needed. The presence of such obstacles to border security on the Green Border should, however, not distract from the current ease of concealing weaponry and related materiel in the legitimate loads of trucks that pass unhindered through the main land border crossing points.