August 28, 2020
French negotiators at the UN Security Council exerted intense diplomatic efforts to persuade their US counterparts of a draft resolution that would “lay new foundations” for the mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The French draft resolution extends the UNIFIL mission for an additional year. It comes after a long and complex debate, after which the US abandoned its demand to reduce the mandate period to six months, but succeeded in setting a timetable that practically begins on Oct. 31 to implement the recommendations of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the prevention of militants and weapons in the international force’s area of operations, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1701.
France, the penholder at the Security Council, placed the draft resolution in blue ink (to indicate that is the final version to be voted on), hoping that the voting would be held on Friday morning, New York time. However, the US requested that it be replaced by a correspondence vote in accordance with the regulations followed since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, the results would be announced 24 hours after the process.
According to information made available to Asharq Al-Awsat, “the United States asked France to introduce more amendments on two main points, one of which is related to setting an integrated timetable for the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General on preventing militants and weapons within the UNIFIL area of operations between the Blue Line and the Litani River, in a direct reference to Hezbollah.”
A number of diplomats at the Security Council noted that China has fervently joined the negotiations and submitted “detailed proposals and a separate draft resolution to renew the mission of UNIFIL in agreement with the Lebanese government”, in a clear attempt to “counter the US pressure to make fundamental changes to the mandate granted to the UNIFIL under Resolution 1701.”
However, France “dealt with the Chinese proposals as part of proposals made by other countries, such as Indonesia, which contributes the largest number of soldiers, or Tunisia, which was keen to introduce provisions for supporting Lebanon and the Lebanese people after the Beirut port explosions.”
Representatives of several countries rejected any mention of the Lebanese government in this context, while the US refused to let China have “any final word” on the mandate of UNIFIL.
Requests received from Beirut through the Lebanese mission did not succeed in introducing a reference to “the necessity of coordination with the Lebanese government. Therefore, the draft resolution has only made reference to the word “Lebanon”.”
Nevertheless, Washington insisted on “clearer rhetoric regarding the timetable to prevent militants and weapons activity in the UNIFIL area of operations.”
The French side also introduced a new paragraph stating that the Security Council “recognizing that UNIFIL has successfully implemented its mandate since 2006 and has allowed the maintenance of peace and security since then, decides to allow the reduction of the maximum number of forces stipulated in paragraph 11 of Resolution 1701 from 15,000 to 13,000 soldiers, without prejudice to the possibility of an increase in the number of the force in the future in the event of a deteriorating security situation… in accordance with resolutions 425, 426 and 1701.”