28. Over the past six months, there has been no progress towards the disarming of Palestinian militias in accordance with the agreement reached in the Lebanese National Dialogue of 2006 that Palestinian militias outside the camps would be disarmed.
29. I have maintained close contact with the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which has assured me of its support for the full implementation of all the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004). The PLO Chairman and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, expressed publicly on numerous occasions the need for the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, and Lebanese law and security requirements.
30. I am pleased to report that on 7 January 2008, the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, launched, at the initiative of President Mahmoud Abbas and in coordination with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the Palestine Declaration for Lebanon. For the first time since the end of the civil war in 1991, PLO outlined its policy towards Lebanon and the bilateral ties governing the two. The document addressed two main concerns: resettlement and arms. Concerning the former, the document rejected any resettlement plan and emphasized Palestinian respect for Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty. As for the weapons, without making a distinction between Palestinian arms present inside refugee camps and those outside, the document stipulates that all arms carried by various Palestinian factions must be subject to Lebanese laws and must not be used in any inter-Lebanese conflict. Further, PLO made a reconciliation effort by offering the Lebanese an unconditional apology for “any damage we [the Palestinians] have caused to our dear Lebanon whether intentionally or not” since 1948. In the same spirit, the document urged the Lebanese to improve the living conditions of the refugees. I commend President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for this initiative.
31. Palestinian refugee camps continue to pose a major challenge to stability and security in Lebanon, owing in particular to the presence of a range of non-State actors in the camps. I remain concerned that threats from Al-Qaida-inspired militias in Palestinian refugee camps continue. On 21 March 2008, clashes between Fatah and the extremist militant group Jund al-Sham, which is known to espouse an Al-Qaida-oriented ideology, erupted in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, leading to one fatality.
32. While the situation in most of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps remains relatively stable, the threat of internal violence that could potentially spill over into surrounding areas exists in a number of camps, particularly in southern Lebanon. In this regard, I continue to be concerned about the emergence of new militant groups. Given the detrimental effects of living conditions in the camps on the wider security situation in Lebanon, it is imperative that progress be made not only towards disbanding and disarming Palestinian militias in Lebanon but also towards improving the conditions in which the refugee population lives, without prejudice to the settlement of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. In this context, I thank the Government of Lebanon for its continued support to the ongoing Camp Improvement Initiative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
33. The battle in Nahr al-Bared in 2007 represents a stark reminder of the grave threat that armed groups pose to the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon, underlining the urgency of disarming them. UNRWA and all relevant Lebanese authorities, notably the Prime Minister’s Office, are completing a master plan for the reconstruction of the camp. The reconstruction effort will be a long and complex operation that will require the full support of international donors.
34. I remain deeply concerned by the activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, which maintain significant paramilitary infrastructures outside refugee camps and along the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic. These two Palestinian militias are headquartered in Damascus. I therefore remind the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic that it bears a responsibility for urging those groups to abide by Security Council resolutions and the decisions of the Government of Lebanon.
35. I take note of the public call on the Syrian Arab Republic by Prime Minister Siniora, on the eve of the Arab League summit on 28 March 2008, to cooperate with Lebanon to disarm Palestinian militias which are headquartered in Damascus.