Friday, May 13, 2016

Larsen last briefing to Security Council on 1559: Hezbollah regional acts raise sectarian tension

Briefing on the twenty-third semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004)
13 May 2016

Mr. President, everybody, Good Morning
1.                Thank you for this opportunity to address you once again in order to present the semi-annual report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004).  In my briefing, there are three main themes that I will focus on today: first, the Presidency and the overall political situation, including the municipal elections; second, the tensions between Lebanon and some States in the region and their possible impact on Lebanon. Third, I will address the security situation, including in Palestinian refugee camps.

2.                During his visit to Lebanon on 24-25 March, the Secretary-General emphasized these same themes: he reiterated the need for political parties to elect a President to ensure national unity. Further, he emphasized the importance of continued support to Lebanon as it faces the impact of the crisis in Syria. 

Mr. President,
3.                 As you are well aware, and as this Council emphasized again most recently on 16 March, there has been no forward movement on the Presidency. The free and fair election of a President of the Republic without external interference is an essential focus of resolution 1559 (2004). In 11 days, it will be two full years that Lebanon has been without a Head of State and Chief of the Armed Forces. The longer that vacuum persists, the greater the pressure on other functioning institutions, particularly the Parliament and the Cabinet.

4.                Despite the hope voiced by some politicians in Lebanon that a solution is in the making, it remains a matter of speculation whether this will materialize in the near future. In that regard, statements indicating that the vacuum will last for a sustained period of time are not helpful. Lebanese politicians must be aware of the risks involved in allowing the vacuum to perpetuate.

5.                The adverse effect of the continued boycott of parliamentary sessions is also well known. Recent efforts by Speaker Berri with the various political forces to hold a legislative session of Parliament are noteworthy.

6.                I again call on Lebanese leaders to set aside their partisan differences to make way for the election of a President. The election is an internal Lebanese affair. It will be important for Lebanese stakeholders to demonstrate their willingness to compromise. The ongoing efforts by the international community to support Lebanon in resolving the presidential vacuum must be built upon.

7.                Prime Minister Salam’s leadership in maintaining the unity of the Cabinet should be commended. Speaker Berri’s successful support to the dialogue between Hizbullah and the Future Movement is laudable. The dialogue could be used as a forum for political actors to generate consensus on presidential candidates, and pave the way to fill the vacuum.

Mr. President,

8.                The municipal elections started in Beirut on 8 May. These are the first ones in six years. It is an important signal that functional channels remain for citizens to exercise their democratic rights. It is positive that these started on time. It is very encouraging that they did take place in a peaceful manner. This is a tribute both to the work of the security forces, and to the responsible behaviour of citizens and political leaders. I hope that elections can continue as planned.

9.                In the now positive atmosphere, I call on Lebanese politicians to keep the momentum going and to turn their eyes to the presidential and the parliamentary elections without further delay.

Mr. President,

10.           Regarding the regional context, the report of the Secretary-General already noted that on 6 March Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah publicly stated that his movement had sent personnel to Iraq. The involvement of Hizbullah in conflicts in the region is of serious concern, given the risk that regional sectarian tensions might impact and increase tensions in Lebanon. This comes in addition to Hizbullah’s long claimed engagement in the conflict in Syria and the known risks to Lebanon’s stability resulting from it. I reiterate the importance of the disassociation policy and the Baabda declaration of 2012, and call on all Lebanese stakeholders to abide by it and renew their commitment to its implementation.

11.           In its extraordinary session of 22 February, Prime Minister Salam on behalf of the Lebanese Cabinet renewed the country’s commitment to the disassociation policy, as formulated in the ministerial statement. This statement by the whole Cabinet demonstrates the willingness of Lebanon to preserve its security, sovereignty and territorial integrity as it faces the continued spill-over of the conflict from Syria. However, the statement should lead to implementation where there is a strict connection between words and deeds.

Mr. President,

12.           The tensions between Lebanon and key players in the region have continued since the decisions in March by the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council to declare Hizbullah a terrorist organization. On 15 April, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Hizbullah for “conducting terrorist activities in Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen and for supporting terrorist movements and groups undermining the security and stability of OIC member states”. Lebanon expressed reservations to the condemnation. At the same time, Prime Minister Salam clarified and reaffirmed in the clearest possible terms the principles of the disassociation policy and the Baabda declaration.

13.           Domestically, it is essential that the dialogue between Hizbullah and the Future Movement continue so that sectarian tensions along regional lines can be prevented. However, that forum cannot be a substitute for the resumption of the National Dialogue and the implementation of the decisions made there.

Mr. President,

14.           Sustained support to the Lebanese Armed Forces is necessary as it continues to protect Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The role of Lebanese Armed Forces as a multi-confessional and politically independent and effective institution confronting threats to the country’s stability is essential.

15.           I welcome the continued bilateral support to the Lebanese Armed Forces, including the Memorandum of Understanding between Canada, the United Kingdom, and Lebanon. It is a positive sign that in the twenty-sixth session of their dialogue, Hizbullah and the Future Movement agreed on adopting adequate measures to bolster internal stability. They highlighted the obligation to uphold the efforts of the military and security institutions in their work to protect the country and the citizens. That consensus is a testimony to the importance that Lebanese leaders attach to maintaining the country’s security and stability. A similar unity of purpose across sectarian interests would be instrumental in making progress on the Presidency.

16.           Despite the important security achievements yielded by the implementation of the security plans, Lebanon is not immune to terrorist attacks. The 12 November bombing of Burj el-Barajneh, claimed by ISIL, sadly reminded us of this fact. This attack was the deadliest since the end of the Lebanese civil war and demonstrated ISIL’s reach in Lebanon. The event targeted a mostly Shiite area and could have led to further bloodshed through sectarian violence. The responsible reaction of Lebanese politicians in the aftermath of the attack was commendable. It is therefore equally significant that there were no further terrorist attacks during the reporting period. This highlights the impact of existing efforts by security services.

Mr. President,

17.           It is of concern that, according to some Member States and actors on the ground, the logistical capabilities of ISIL and the Nusra front in Lebanon are said to be expanding, mostly in the Palestinian camps. On 12 April, a senior official of the Fatah Movement in the Mieh Mieh camp, Fathi Zaidan, was killed in a car bomb explosion. This triggered concerns that renewed armed clashes between Fatah and Islamist extremist factions such as Fatah el-Islam and Jund al-Sham could take place, in a bid to challenge the hegemony of mainstream Fatah over the camp. This incident, and reports on increasing capabilities of extremist armed elements in Palestinian refugee camps, demonstrate the continued importance of implementing the outstanding provisions of resolution 1559 (2004). This is particularly relevant for the full disarmament and disbanding of all militias. 

18.           On 21 March, UNRWA suspended the implementation of its revised healthcare policy. The Agency entered into a dialogue with Palestinian factions to address changes in its hospitalisation policy, education, the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared camp and support to Palestine refugees from Syria. The dialogue is under way.  Protests however have taken place repeatedly in front of the Agency’s offices. According to UNRWA, it is likely that unrest will continue and there is a potential for violence to increase. It is essential that the Government of Lebanon ensure the protection of the Agency and its staff and assets. I call on all concerned to pursue a meaningful and constructive dialogue with UNRWA with a view to resolving the current tensions and allowing a return to the Agency’s normal activities. This situation also demonstrates that the constraints weighing on UNRWA’s funding and its ability to provide its vital relief services to Palestinian refugees may result in security risks. Further to the recent call by the Secretary-General, I appeal to donors to do their utmost to sustain UNRWA and its work as a matter of priority for 2016.

Mr. President,

19.           As regards the situation across the Blue Line, the Secretary-General reported on unhelpful statements by Hizbullah secretary general Nasrallah on both 16 February and 20 March. On 21 April, according to media reports, a senior official from the Israel Defense Forces stated that Hizbullah had developed capabilities that presented unprecedented threats to Israel and that “any future crisis would be a full-scale war” that could generate “devastating damage to Lebanon”. I reiterate the call contained in the Secretary-General’s report on both parties to refrain from provocative rhetoric and to abide by their respective obligations. It is essential that the parties continue to collaborate with UNIFIL and UNSCOL in taking forward their obligations and in preventing an escalation.

20.           Lebanon has continued to be adversely impacted by the spill-over of the conflict in Syria. As stated in the report of the Secretary-General, there were repeated violations of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity on the eastern border during the reporting period. On 28 April, two Islamic State militants, including a senior commander, were killed by the Lebanese Armed Forces in the vicinity of Arsal. This operation showed that threats to Lebanon stability persist and the continued importance of existing efforts to strengthen and reinforce the capacity of the LAF border regiment.

21.           Violations of Lebanese airspace through aerial overflights from Israel continued, as did the occupation of the northern part of the village of Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line, in violation of resolutions 1701 (2006) and 1559 (2004).

Mr. President,

22.           The number of refugees from Syria in Lebanon remained stable during the reporting period at over one million. In addition, there are 41,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria. The London conference has demonstrated the sustained support of foreign governments to Lebanon as it responds to the needs of refugees. The Statement of Intent by Lebanon details key priorities for support. This comes in addition to the ongoing emergency and stabilization needs outlined in the 2016 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. Prime Minister Salam at the London conference emphasized the important humanitarian, economic, and social challenges Lebanon is facing and urged the prompt implementation of the pledges.

23.           Donor countries have already been generous in their support. I welcome the 10 May statement by the co-host donors of the London conference: the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, and Norway. They pledged that they would provide over $550 million this year for Lebanon. This is an encouraging message. I call on other member states to heed this example to support Lebanon as it continues to host the largest per capita number of refugees in the world.

24.           The fruitful joint visit of the Secretary-General, the President of the World Bank and that of the Islamic Bank to Lebanon was an important signal of the commitment of international institutions to the country’s stability. The creative and innovative financing mechanisms feed into the broader efforts at conflict prevention and stabilization.

Mr. President,

25.           The absence of progress on the presidential election could be discouraging. Domestic actors have not yet made the courageous compromises necessary to put an end to the vacuum. High-level international engagement must continue and be sustained.  Lebanon remains under severe humanitarian, economic and social pressures. Preventive efforts have so far been the hallmark of the international community’s approach to Lebanon. This includes the work of the International Support Group for Lebanon, which has contributed significantly to preserving the fragile stability of the country.

Mr. President,

26.           Let me use this opportunity to take stock briefly of the state of play in the implementation of resolution 1559. Undoubtedly, since the resolution was passed in September 2004, a lot has been achieved. In April 2005, the Syrian Arab Republic withdrew its troops and military assets from Lebanon on the basis of the United Nations-mediated security arrangements within the framework of resolution 1559. This was followed by the establishment of full diplomatic relations between both countries in 2009. Presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted freely and fairly in 2008 and 2009, respectively. These landmark events demonstrate the positive and important impact that resolution 1559 has had on the political independence and sovereignty of Lebanon.

27.           At the same time, other provisions of the resolution are not only lagging behind, but the failure to implement them may also erode the progress achieved so far. I have already spoken at length about the presidential vacuum and its negative effect on the ability of Lebanon to make important decisions. The current paralysis undermines the institutions that have proven effective in running the country.

28.           The most outstanding provision of resolution 1559 is the disarmament and disbandment of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Since 2004, not only have the militias’ presence and activities continued, but if anything they have expanded. Their growing capabilities are a source of concern. They represent a major and dangerous threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and political independence. Looking forward, it is essential that all efforts be made to move forward outstanding provisions of the resolution. This is also necessary to preserve the existing achievements.

Mr. President,

29.           This report is the twenty-third I brief the Council on. Having served as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1559 for the last 12 years, I now wish to devote more time to the work of the International Peace Institute (IPI) – particularly in its partnership with the United Nations. I have asked the Secretary-General to relieve me of my duties as Special Envoy and Under-Secretary-General as of 31 May this year.

30.           I wish to inform you in my last briefing that I remain a strong believer in the independence of the Special Envoy on resolution 1559 from other resolutions. This is all the more necessary given the radically changed political landscape in and around Lebanon compared with the realities on the ground at the time of the inception of 1559. The provisions of the resolution remain ever more valid and important for the political independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Lebanon today.

31.           It has been a privilege serving the Secretary-General, the Security Council, and the world Organization for all this time. I would like to thank this Council for its confidence and consistent support over the last 12 years. I also would like to use this opportunity to thank my staff for their skilful work and their dedication: Fabrice Aidan, Nicola Davies, Dawn Stephens, Aurelie Proust, and Anne-Laure Gilard. Without any exceptions, it has been not only an honour but a real pleasure to work hand in hand with you on the challenges pertaining to the implementation of resolution 1559. These weigh heavily on the future of peace and security for Lebanon and the Lebanese people. I would like to say to all of you that, in my capacity as President of the International Peace Institute, if I can be helpful in advancing the efforts to ensure international peace and security, I will be at your service.
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Security Council Statement on Syria/CoH

Syria Press Statement: 12 May 2016

“The members of the Security Council expressed outrage at all recent attacks in Syria directed against civilians and civilian objects including medical facilities, as well as all indiscriminate attacks, and stressed that these actions may amount to war crimes. They expressed their deep concern at violations of the cessation of hostilities endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2268.

The members of the Security Council welcomed in this regard the recent efforts of the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group, and the re-affirmation of their commitment to the nationwide cessation of hostilities that went into effect on February 27 across Syria, as well as their commitment to use their influence with the cessation of hostilities parties on the ground to press them to abide by the cessation of hostilities, refrain from disproportionate responses to provocations and demonstrate restraint.

The members of the Security Council recalled that all obligations under international humanitarian law must be respected in all circumstances by all parties. They recalled, in particular, the obligation to distinguish between civilian populations and combatants, and the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians and civilian objects. The members of the Security Council reiterated their call on all parties to immediately implement in full the provisions of Security Council resolutions relating to Syria, including resolutions 2139 (2013), 2165 (2014) 2191 (2014) and 2258 (2015), as well as Resolution 2286 (2016) relating to healthcare in armed conflict.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government to protect the population in Syria and reiterated that parties to the armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians.

The members of the Security Council condemned increased terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties and destruction carried out by ISIL — also known as Da’esh, Al-Nusra Front and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida, and called on all parties to commit to putting an end to terrorist acts perpetrated by such organizations and individuals. They affirmed that Member States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, international refugee and international humanitarian law.

The members of the Security Council demanded the full and immediate implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political transition, in accordance with the Geneva Communiqué as set forth in the ISSG Statements, in order to end the conflict in Syria, and stressed again that the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria . In that respect, they expressed their full support for the role and efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Staffan de Mistura”.
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Egyptian Draft PRST on Countering Daesh Propaganda

Rev 6 (Final) - May 10, 2016

Statement by the President of the Security Council

At the xxxx meeting of the Security Council, held on 11 May 2016, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts”, the President of the Security Council made the following statement on behalf of the Council: 

1. The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

2. The Security Council further reaffirms that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whosoever committed.

3. The Security Council reaffirms its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

4. The Security Council emphasizes that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization, and in this regard stresses the importance of promoting tolerance and inter religious dialogue.  

5. The Security Council stresses that terrorism can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all States, international and regional organizations and civil society as appropriate, to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat, consistent with the United Nations Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy.

6. The Security Council reaffirms that Member States must ensure that any measures taken to counter terrorism comply with the Charter of the United Nations and all other obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law.

7. The Security Council reiterates the obligation of Member States to refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in or associated with terrorist acts, including by suppressing recruitment of members of terrorist groups, consistent with international law, and eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.

8. The Security Council underlines the importance of prompt and effective implementation of its resolutions related to the fight against terrorism, and recalls in this regard among others its resolutions 1373(2001), 1624 (2005) and 2178 (2014).

9. The Security Council, consistent with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, further recalls that countering violent extremism, which can be conducive to terrorism, including preventing radicalization, recruitment, and mobilization of individuals into terrorist groups and becoming Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) is an essential element of addressing the threat to international peace and security posed by Foreign Terrorist Fighters, as underlined in resolution 2178 (2014), and in this regard, takes note of the Secretary General’s Plan of Action to prevent violent extremism, and further notes that the General Assembly has welcomed the initiative by the Secretary-General and took note of said Plan, which will be subject to further consideration during the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review in June 2016, as well as in other relevant forums.

10. The Security Council notes with concern that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, craft distorted narratives that are based on the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion to justify violence, which are utilized to recruit supporters and Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs), mobilize resources, and garner support from sympathizers, in particular by exploiting information and communications technologies, including through the Internet and social media.

11. The Security Council recognizes the role that victims of terrorism in particular, among other legitimate voices, can play in countering radicalization to violence, and to develop robust social- media campaigns and counter messaging efforts to counter terrorist narratives and online recruitment attempts.

12. The Security Council further notes, in this regard, the urgent need to globally counter the activities of ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities to incite and recruit to commit terrorist acts and recognizes that the international community should consider developing an accurate understanding of how these groups motivate others to commit terrorist acts or recruit them; developing the most effective means to counter terrorist propaganda, incitement and recruitment, including through the Internet, in compliance with international law, including international human rights law; developing a counter narrative campaign to encourage, and amplify active denouncers of ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities to point out the fallacies and inconsistencies of terrorist narratives, where applicable, while recognizing the need for such a campaign to be adaptive to national contexts; raising public awareness, including through education regarding counter terrorist narratives; developing more effective ways for governments to partner with appropriate civil society actors, local communities and private sector industry partners, as applicable, to counter radicalization and recruitment efforts of ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities; strengthening international cooperation mechanisms; identifying any additional relevant infrastructure and capability needs of Member States; and mobilizing necessary resources to where there is need.

13. The Security Council, accordingly, requests the Counter-Terrorism Committee, in close consultations with the CTED and other relevant United Nations bodies and international and regional organizations in particular the CTITF office, as well as interested Member States, to present a proposal to the Security Council by 30 April 2017 for a “comprehensive international framework”, with recommended guidelines and good practices to effectively counter, in compliance with international law, the ways that ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities use their narratives to encourage, motivate, and recruit others to commit terrorist acts, including with a counter narrative campaign, consistent with any similar campaign undertaken by the United Nations, as well as options for coordinating the implementation of the framework and mobilizing resources as necessary, emphasizing, in that regard, the primary role of Member States with regard to activities and arrangements consistent with such framework and welcoming their continuing efforts to enhance inter agency cooperation and coordination and establish relevant partnerships with private sector, civil society, religious, educational and cultural institutions with a view to countering the narratives of terrorist groups and incitement to commit terrorist acts. 
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

UK draft press statement on Aleppo

The members of the Security Council condemned the increase in violence around Aleppo prompted by a military offensive by the Syrian authorities launched in late April. The members further expressed grave alarm at the intolerable suffering, death and destruction, resulting in the deaths of up to 280 civilians in just 12 days. The members of the Security Council reiterated the Secretary General’s call for the Syrian parties to recommit immediately to the cessation of hostilities and to protect civilians from t the dangers of military operations,

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned all attacks directed against civilians, civilian infrastructure, and medical facilities as violations of international humanitarian law. The members of the Security Council expressed their outrage that on 27 April the Al Quds hospital in Aleppo was destroyed by airstrikes, killing at least 50 people two doctors, one of whom was a pediatrician in Aleppo, injuring dozens, and depriving many more of lifesaving medical care. The members of the Security Council also strongly condemned the attack, on 3 May on Al-Dabit medical facility and the resulting casualties.

The members of the Security Council strongly condemned all acts of violence, attacks and threats directed against the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospital and other medical facilities in Syria.

The members of the Security Council recalled the adoption on 3 May 2016 of resolution 2286 on healthcare in conflict, and that, under international law, attacks intentionally directed against hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, functioning as such , as well as attacks intentionally directed against buildings, material, medical units and transport and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with international law are war crimes. [PP17, healthcare resolution]

The members of the Security Council underlined their demand in resolution 2268 that all parties to whom the cessation of hostilities applies fulfil their commitments as outlined in the terms of the cessation, and urged all Member States, especially ISSG members, to use their influence with the parties to the cessation of hostilities to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and to support efforts to create conditions for a durable and lasting ceasefire. (based on OP 1 of R. 2268)

The members of the Security Council look forward to the next report of the Special Envoy on the implementation of resolutions 2254 and 2268, including by drawing on information provided by the ISSG ceasefire task force.
Follow me on Twitter @NabilAbiSaab