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II. Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004)
B. Extension of Government control over all Lebanese territory
16. Over the past six months, security sources in Lebanon have reported several shootings and explosions in and around paramilitary facilities in the eastern Beka’a Valley belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) and Fatah al-Intifadah. The permanent presence of such facilities alongside the Syrian-Lebanese border adds to the general porosity of parts of the land border and poses a challenge for the control of the border by the Lebanese Security Forces. It also makes border delineation more difficult.
C. Disbanding and disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
20. In resolution 1559 (2004), the Security Council calls for the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, which merely reflects and reaffirms a decision to which all Lebanese committed themselves under the Taif Accord in 1989, in the aftermath of the civil war. At the time, this understanding led Lebanese militias, with the exception of Hizbullah, to give up their weapons.
21. Regrettably, Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias continue to operate in the country outside the Government’s control, in serious violation of resolution 1559 (2004). While several groups across the political spectrum in Lebanon possess weapons outside Government control — as recent security incidents have demonstrated — the armed component of Hizbullah remains the most significant and most heavily armed Lebanese militia in the country. In addition, a series of Palestinian armed groups are operating in the country within and outside the refugee camps.
22. During the reporting period, there was no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, as called for in the Taif Accord and resolution 1559 (2004).
25. Since its reconvening after the May 2008 events, the National Dialogue, chaired by President Sleiman, has helped to preserve stability in the country and to contain public rhetoric. With a view to addressing the question of weapons outside Government control, participants in the forum were requested to present their positions on the national defence strategy and to seek, through a committee of experts, commonalities among the proposals presented by participants. To date, not all participants have nominated members to represent them on the committee, which, regrettably, is not convened on a regular basis.
26. During the reporting period, the National Dialogue was convened by President Sleiman on two occasions: on 17 June and 19 August 2010. Discussions at the most recent session reflected once again both the centrality of the issue of Hizbullah’s weapons with regard to the development of a national strategy and the strong opposition to discussing this issue on the part of Hizbullah and its political allies. As a result of those discussions, the participants agreed, inter alia: (a) to continue to study the national defence strategy; (b) to confirm the importance of a national consensus, the consolidation of political and security stability and commitment to the decisions approved at the National Dialogue, particularly those related to illegal Palestinian weapons outside the camps; and (c) to pursue the national campaign aimed at ensuring the right of return of Palestinian refugees and rejecting their naturalization. It was agreed that the National Dialogue would be reconvened on 4 November.
27. With respect to the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon, I am pleased to report that the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization has reiterated, both to me and publicly, its appeal to the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, as well as Lebanese law and security requirements.
28. While the situation in most of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps remains relatively stable, the threat that internal violence could spill over into surrounding areas still exists in a number of camps. Some of the camps continue to provide safe haven for those who seek to escape the authority of the State. During the reporting period, security sources registered several incidents in and around refugee camps involving the use of weapons.
29. Notwithstanding those incidents, closer cooperation between Palestinian camp authorities and Lebanese authorities has improved camp security. Meanwhile, Lebanese authorities do not maintain a permanent presence inside the camps, despite the fact that the Cairo agreement of 1969, which permitted the presence of Palestinian armed forces in the refugee camps, was annulled by the Lebanese Parliament in 1987. More will need to be done to contain potential tension in the camps.
30. The situation of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon remains, by and large, dire. For many years, the United Nations has urged the Government to improve the conditions in which Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, without prejudice to the eventual resolution of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement in the region, in particular given the detrimental effects of dismal living conditions on the wider security situation. Prime Minister Hariri has reassured me that his Government remains committed to addressing the social and economic conditions of Palestinian refugees.
31. In a significant effort to improve the situation of Palestinian refugees, Lebanon’s Parliament adopted, on 17 August 2010, amendments to the Labour Code and the Social Security Law that lifted restrictions on work for Palestinian refugees in the country, based on a draft proposal originally introduced by Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt in June 2010. The new legislation will facilitate, inter alia, the process by which Lebanese employers hire Palestinian refugees. It will also extend a number of legal protections to Palestinian employees.
40. The continued presence of PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifadah paramilitary infrastructures outside the refugee camps continues to be of great concern to me. I regret that my repeated encouragements to the Government of Lebanon to address this long-standing issue have not been heeded, despite the consensual agreement reached at the National Dialogue already in 2006 to do so. I urge the Government of national unity to implement the decisions previously agreed upon and reiterated in the Government’s ministerial declaration of December 2009, related to provisions concerning the disarmament of Palestinian military outposts outside the refugee camps and addressing the issue of arms inside the camps. Mindful that these two militias maintain close regional ties, I renew my appeal to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to assist in this process.
41. I commend the Government of Lebanon and Lebanese parliamentarians for the important initial legislative steps that they have taken towards improving the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, without prejudice to an overall resolution of the Palestinian refugee question within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement. I look forward to their implementation under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and with the support of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee during the coming period. I hope that further steps in that direction will be taken soon, as I am convinced that addressing the difficult conditions of Palestinian refugees will have a positive impact on the coexistence of Lebanese and Palestinians, and hence on national security and stability.