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II. Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004)
C. Disbanding and disarmament of Lebanese and
27. The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese State cannot be overstated, as events in May 2008 demonstrated. It creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. It also undermines the stability of the region, and is incompatible with the objectives of resolution 1559 (2004), which aims at strengthening the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon.
28. The most significant remaining Lebanese militia is the armed component of Hizbullah. In addition, several Palestinian militias operate in the country, inside and outside refugee camps.
29. I am pleased that the National Dialogue under the auspices of the President of the Republic has continued to convene on a quasi-monthly basis to develop a national defence strategy, which should consider ways to enhance the authority of the State. The last session was held on 2 March, and the participants committed themselves, inter alia, to work to guarantee a political and security climate favourable to the peaceful conduct of the parliamentary election, free of violence and inflammatory rhetoric. It was also agreed that experts would continue to seek to develop a national defence strategy. The next session will convene on 28 April.
30. 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).
31. During the past few months, in particular in the context of the war in Gaza, tension has increased in Palestinian camps in Lebanon. While the Palestinian factions in Lebanon were eager to demonstrate unity across party lines during the recent conflict with Israel, the situation changed after the ceasefire. The declared commitment to unity can no longer disguise deepening divisions between the political factions on the ground — divisions that represent an additional factor of instability in an overall volatile security context. I am concerned that tensions between PLO and Hamas have become more apparent in the camps. Lebanese security authorities have stepped up their efforts to reach out to the rival faction leaders in a number of camps.
32. Frequent clashes were reported inside and around refugee camps. The most serious event was the terrorist attack on 23 March that killed Kamal Medhat, deputy head of PLO in Lebanon and three of his bodyguards.
33. Some refugee camps, in particular Ain el-Hilweh, provide safe haven for those who seek to escape the authority of the State. That constitutes a reminder of the grave threat that armed groups pose to the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon, underlining the urgency of disarming them. Security coordination and cooperation between the Lebanese security agencies and the Palestinian factions have improved and should be further encouraged.
34. The issue of Palestinian arms outside 12 official refugee camps in Lebanon has resurfaced in the Lebanese political discourse. There are four such Palestinian military bases located along the Lebanese-Syrian border, as well as a fifth, south of Beirut. Those military installations are illegally maintained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifadah.
35. The alleged involvement of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in the firing of rockets from Lebanese soil towards Israel at the time of the Gaza war drew national attention to the activities of this group and the risks it posed to stability in Lebanon. This question has also been on the agenda of the National Dialogue. However, no conclusive results have been reached at this stage. While the 14 key political leaders achieved agreement in the 2006 National Dialogue that those Palestinian armed positions had to be dismantled within six months, no progress has been made. During recent rounds of the National Dialogue, Lebanese leaders have reiterated their commitment to that agreement. The time has come to implement that important decision.
36. I am mindful that the implementation of the decisions reached by the National Dialogue in 2006 to disarm Palestinian militias outside the camps falls primarily under the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities. Nevertheless, given that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada are both headquartered in Damascus, I request the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to assist the Lebanese in this process and to urge those groups to abide by the decisions of the Government of Lebanon.
37. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has thanked the Government of Lebanon for its efforts to improve the living conditions of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. In this context, the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization has reiterated to me the need for the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, and Lebanese law and security requirements. The commendable policies adopted by the Government led by the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, on this issue should be pursued and implemented by the new government of Lebanon to be formed after the June elections.
38. Indeed, given the detrimental effects of living conditions in the camps on the wider security situation in Lebanon, I remain convinced that 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 Palestine refugee question in the context of an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
39. Progress, albeit slow, continues to be made towards the reconstruction of the destroyed Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. Insufficient donor funding remains a critical obstacle, however. Securing adequate funding to enable the more than 30,000 displaced persons to return speedily to their homes would contribute to the broader goal we all share of strengthening Lebanon’s stability and security. The Prime Minister is to be commended for his commitment to improving security in and around the 12 official refugee camps in Lebanon, using Nahr el-Bared as a model. At the same time, I encourage the continued improvement of intercommunal dialogue and greater freedom of movement for the refugees, as espoused by the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee.
49. I am concerned by security incidents in and around Palestinian camps. While I recognize that security cooperation between the Lebanese authorities and Palestinian factions has improved, more needs to be done to contain violence that could potentially spillover into surrounding areas. More specifically, I call upon the Lebanese authorities to take the necessary measures, consistent with the decisions of the National Dialogue, to dismantle the paramilitary infrastructure outside refugee camps of the Damascus-headquartered Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifadah, mindful that the Syrian Arab Republic has a particular responsibility to aid the Lebanese authorities in these efforts.