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II. Implementation of resolution 1559 (2004)
C. Disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias
24. I wish to recall and emphasize that the provision of resolution 1559 (2004), in which the Security Council calls for the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias is merely reflecting and reaffirming a decision that all Lebanese committed themselves to in the Taif Agreement in 1989, in the aftermath of the civil war. This understanding led at the time to Lebanese militias, with the exception of Hizbullah, giving up their armed capacities. This agreement must be preserved and implemented by all in order to avoid the spectre of a renewed confrontation among the Lebanese. 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 incompatible with the conduct of the normal democratic process in a State. It also undermines the stability of the region and stands against the objectives of resolution 1559 (2004), which aims at strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.
25. Since my last report, the National Dialogue on a defence strategy for Lebanon, which brings together the country’s political leaders under the chairmanship of President Michel Sleiman, held two additional sessions on 28 April and 1 June. In the absence of a new government since the parliamentary elections of June 2009, this forum could not convene again. A year after President Michel Sleiman kicked off the National Dialogue, participants have so far committed themselves to implementing the decisions adopted at the sessions of the National Dialogue held in 2006, including the dismantling of Palestinian bases outside the camps. They also agreed on the establishment of mechanisms that would assist a future discussion of national defence strategy, on the basis of the proposals already received from members of the National Dialogue and of those that are expected to be submitted in the future. President Michel Sleiman informed me that he would reconvene the National Dialogue as soon as a new Government is sworn in.
30. Another serious threat to the stability and sovereignty of Lebanon is posed by non-Lebanese armed groups.
31. Over the past six months, there has been no progress towards the disarming of Palestinian militias, in accordance with the agreement reached at the National Dialogue sessions of 2006, and reaffirmed by the current National Dialogue, that Palestinian outposts outside the camps would be disarmed. 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 PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifadah. I have called upon the Government of Lebanon to dismantle those bases, and look forward to progress in this regard when a new Government is sworn in.
32. The leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) reiterated its call on the Palestinians in Lebanon to respect the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, and Lebanese law and security requirements. I commend the position of PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and urge all Palestinians in Lebanon to abide by it.
33. 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. Indeed, some of the refugee camps, in particular Ain el-Hilweh, continue to provide safe haven for those who seek to escape the authority of the State. In Ain el-Hilweh camp, several incidents were registered during the reporting period. On 16 June, two unidentified masked men opened fire at a Fatah officer, Ahmad Abul Kol. He was shot dead, while another individual was injured. The incident was followed by continuous shooting in different areas inside the camp over several days. Other shooting incidents were reported over the last months.
34. Notwithstanding these incidents, closer cooperation between Palestinian camp authorities and Lebanese authorities improved camp security during the reporting period. More needs to be done to contain potential tension in the camps.
35. The conditions of hardship inside Palestinian refugee camps are strengthening radical groups and therefore living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon should be improved, in the best interest of the wider security situation in the country. 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. In this regard, the work of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee established by outgoing Prime Minister Fuad Siniora should be supported and strengthened to ensure fundamental improvements in living conditions. In this context, continuous financial support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is essential if the crucial task of improving educational and medical services to Palestinian refugees is to be achieved. All this should be achieved without prejudice to the eventual resolution of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of a comprehensive regional peace agreement.
42. The continued presence of paramilitary infrastructure outside refugee camps by the Damascus-headquartered PFLP-GC and Fatah al-Intifadah, in particular along the Syrian-Lebanese border, is of great concern. It is therefore essential that the new Government implement decisions adopted in the context of the National Dialogue in 2006, and recently readopted, to dismantle and disarm Palestinian groups outside the refugee camps.
43. I am concerned by repeated security incidents in and around Palestinian camps. Security cooperation between the Lebanese authorities and Palestinian factions has improved. However, more needs to be done to contain violence that could potentially spill over into surrounding areas. I am also conscious of the living conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon and the challenges that arise from them. I commend the work of the outgoing Government of Lebanon to improve those conditions. It will be imperative for the new Government to build on the initial steps taken by the previous Government, with a view to enabling Palestinian refugees to live in dignity and to ensuring peaceful coexistence between Lebanese and Palestinians, without prejudice to the settlement of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement.