Issue 53: The situation in southern Lebanon

Credible reports say Lebanon is not exercising control in the border region with Israel, thus violating UN Security Council Resolutions.

Analysis: The Lebanese Government is the sole party responsible for ensuring a secure border with Israel. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is mandated with “confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.” As UNIFIL’s spokesperson, Timor Goksel, has been reported to note, “border security is essentially the responsibility of the state of Lebanon.”

Although UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office has said that Lebanon’s deployment of 1000 police and troops “is the first step towards the gradual restoration of Lebanese authority over southern Lebanon, and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is supporting the effort,” there are reports that UN authorities do acknowledge Lebanon’s refusal to fully deploy in the south of the country.

Security Council Resolution 425 (1978) is unequivocal: Lebanon must exercise effective authority over its territory. This includes its border with Israel. Reports of Lebanese acquiescence as people throw objects into Israel, is a part of Lebanon’s non-compliance with Resolution 425.

A further Security Council requirement, found in Resolution 520 (1982), is “for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon.” With Syria maintaining some 30,000 troops in Lebanon, Syria too is violating a Security Council Resolution.

Over the years, a UN majority has regularly condemned Israel’s behavior in light of Resolution 425. This condemnation was echoed in the Commission on Human Rights and other UN fora. Now that Lebanon and Syria are violating UN requirements, the UN majority will be tested for its reaction. The results will be telling.

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