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II. Implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006)
6. Since my last report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) was issued, Lebanon’s security agencies have continued to coordinate their investigations of alleged Israeli spying networks in Lebanon and, according to Government sources, have made at least one further arrest in this connection.
A. Situation in the UNIFIL area of operations
26. On numerous occasions, UNIFIL encountered civilians armed with hunting rifles in the area of operations, despite the Government ban on hunting and the carrying of weapons inside the area, which the Government reissued late in October 2009. The Lebanese Armed Forces continued to remind the local population of the ban. Although the Lebanese Armed Forces arrested numerous individuals and confiscated their weapons, some managed to flee. In addition, armed persons and weapons are present inside the Palestinian refugee camps in the area.
C. Disarming armed groups
37. The presence of Palestinian and other armed groups continues to pose a threat to the stability of Lebanon and challenges Lebanese sovereignty. I continue to be concerned about the maintenance of paramilitary infrastructure on Lebanese territory by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, as it encroaches on Lebanese sovereignty. The fact that some of those military bases straddle the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic poses an added challenge for the control of the border. I have called upon the Government of Lebanon to dismantle those bases and on the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to cooperate with these efforts. On 17 January 2010, Fatah al-Intifada’s Secretary-General, Abu Musa, who visited Lebanon for the first time in 28 years, publicly rejected any attempt to dismantle the Palestinian military bases along the Lebanese-Syrian border and in Naameh, south of Beirut. The statement of the leader of Fatah al-Intifada triggered strong reactions from Lebanese officials, who described it as a challenge to the Government of Lebanon and the decisions taken in the National Dialogue. The Lebanese Cabinet reaffirmed that Lebanon’s sovereignty was non-negotiable and that no Palestinian arms should be outside the camps. Two days later, Abu Musa clarified that his group was ready to engage in a dialogue to reach agreement on Palestinian arms outside the camp with the Lebanese Government or State. In this context, it is also worth highlighting that, in its ministerial statement, the new Government stressed “the need to implement the points agreed upon during the National Dialogue, to eliminate Palestinian weapons outside the camps and deal with the issues relating to security and arms inside the camps”. This refers to decisions taken earlier in the National Dialogue process in 2006.
38. On 15 February clashes between members of Fatah and members of radical Islamist movements broke out in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, near Saida. One person was killed as a result of the fighting before calm was restored to the camp. This incident disrupted an otherwise generally calm situation in the camps. Lebanese authorities have continued to welcome cooperation arrangements with Palestinian authorities on security issues in the camps. On 26 December 2009, a bomb exploded in a facility used by Hamas and located in the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hraik. At least two men identified as bodyguards of Osama Hamdan, a representative of the Hamas political bureau, were killed in the incident. While the investigation by the Lebanese authorities is still ongoing, security sources have indicated that the explosion was caused by an accident.
D. Arms embargo
40. The effective management of the borders of Lebanon continues to be affected by the lack of demarcation of the border between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic and by the continued presence of Palestinian military bases which straddle the border between the two countries. During the reporting period, the Government of Lebanon continued to make efforts to improve the control over its borders. According to Lebanese officials, bilateral cooperation between the security agencies of Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic has improved during the reporting period, focusing on curbing security threats affecting both countries. Lebanese and Syrian officials have confirmed to my Special Coordinator that the two States have agreed to start addressing the question of management of their common border within a comprehensive framework of bilateral cooperation.
65. The presence of armed groups in Lebanon operating outside the control of the State constitutes a challenge to the ability of the State to exercise its full sovereignty and control over its territory in accordance with resolution 1701 (2006) and remains a matter of concern to me. As I have stated before, I believe that the disarmament of armed groups should be carried out through a Lebanese-led political process. I therefore call upon the President of Lebanon to reconvene the National Dialogue to further discussions on a national defence strategy, with a view to forging a national consensus on this key issue. I also note that the new Government in Lebanon has declared its commitment to implementing decisions taken by the National Dialogue in 2006 and 2009 to disarm Palestinian groups outside the camps, and to address the issue of arms inside the official refugee camps. I call upon the Government of Lebanon to take measures to this effect.
66. The situation of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon remains a subject of concern, including with regard to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). While I commend the cooperation on security matters between Lebanese agencies and Palestinian authorities inside the camps, further progress should be made to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees. I believe that more efforts need to be made in this respect, whist ensuring the peaceful coexistence of the Lebanese and Palestinian communities and without prejudice to the settlement of the Palestinian refugee question in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. I therefore call upon the Government of Lebanon and the donor community to make concerted efforts in addressing the dire socio-economic situation of the Palestinian refugee community as a matter of priority.
67. The situation prevailing between Lebanon and Israel, which is of the utmost relevance to the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), is inevitably affected by regional dynamics. While I call upon the parties to continue to work resolutely on the implementation of their obligations under resolution 1701 (2006) and to move towards a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution, I believe that the pace at which progress will be achieved in this respect will be influenced by other regional developments. In particular, the absence of progress on the Middle East peace process has a negative impact on the full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) and on the stability of Lebanon.
68. I call on both parties to take the necessary steps to achieve what Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) defines as a long-term solution that would govern their relations. The achievement of that solution cannot and should not be dissociated from the need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all relevant resolutions of the Security Council, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1515 (2003). I call upon the parties and upon all Member States to work decisively towards this goal.
69. I would like to express my appreciation to General Graziano for his exemplary leadership and dedicated service in UNIFIL over the past three challenging years. I commend General Graziano for successfully maintaining constructive relations with both the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces. His efforts have contributed to building confidence with the parties and enhancing stability in southern Lebanon. I have full confidence that UNIFIL will continue to carry out its mission effectively under the leadership of General Asarta.