United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (AFP)

August 6, 2020

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Lebanese government to disarm the militant group Hezbollah in a report he intends to present to the United Nations Security Council next Tuesday.

“The maintenance of unauthorized weapons outside State control by Hezbollah and other non-State armed groups represents a persistent violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and is of serious concern,” wrote Guterres in a report that was posted on the UN website earlier this week, prior to the Beirut explosion.

“I call upon the Government of Lebanon to take all actions necessary to ensure the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), which require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than those of the Lebanese State,” Guterres said.

The document is one of three reports that Guterres sends annually to the UNSC on UNIFIL. This one comes in advance of the anticipate annual vote, on August 28, to renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Israel and the United States want the UNSC to expand the mandate to better empower UNIFIL to investigate violations by Hezbollah, particularly with regard to the terror tunnels it has built to use in attacks on Israel along its northern border.

Guterres in his report that he too was concerned that UNIFIL lacked the necessary freedom of movement to complete its mandate.

“UNIFIL has yet to gain access to all locations north of the Blue Line in relation to the discovery of tunnels crossing the Blue Line in violation of resolution 1701 (2006),” Guterres said.

“I urge the Government of Lebanon to expeditiously undertake and conclude all necessary investigations regarding the tunnels on the Lebanese side and to take preventive measures against similar occurrences in the future,” he added.

“The freedom of movement of UNIFIL in its entire area of operations, including along the full length of the Blue Line, remains critical. The ability of UNIFIL to conduct patrols and activities independently has to be upheld in accordance with the mission’s mandate,” Guterres said.

He called on the Lebanese government and its armed forces to help UNIFIL fulfill its mission and to investigate restrictions on its freedom of movement.

The peacekeeping force, which this year numbers over 11,000 personnel, has acted in southern Lebanon since 1978. As of 2006, it was tasked with monitoring compliance with UN Resolution 1701, which set out the terms of the ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War.

In this report, as in past reports, Guterres found that both Israel and Lebanon were in violation of that ceasefire and called on both countries to halt such activity.

The IDF, Guterres charged, “continued to enter Lebanese airspace on an almost daily basis, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty.

“From 19 February to 16 June, UNIFIL recorded a daily average of 3.7 airspace violations, with 11 daily overflight hours. Unmanned aerial vehicles accounted for approximately 76 percent of the violations. The remaining airspace violations involved fighter aircraft or unidentified aircraft,” Guterres said.

On the ground, Guterres said he was concerned by incidents in which, “weapons were pointed by the parties across the Blue Line” given that “each incident has the potential to lead to escalation with serous consequences.”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guterres called on Israel and Lebanon to increase their efforts to adhere to Resolution 1701.

The Jerusalem Post

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