Lebanon and neighbours need to make more progress – UN envoy

“Unfortunately, there remain many areas of 1701 where there has been little progress,” Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, told reporters after briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the resolution’s implementation.Resolution 1701 called for, among other matters, renewed respect for the Blue Line separating the Lebanese forces and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling.Mr. Williams noted that, despite repeated criticism by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Israeli air violations of the Blue Line continue “unabated and on a daily basis.” In addition, no date has been set for a withdrawal of the IDF from the northern part of the village of Ghajar, as required under resolution 1701.As noted by Mr. Ban in his report, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) submitted a proposal one year ago to facilitate the full withdrawal of the IDF. The Lebanese Government said last August that it was ready to accept the proposal. While Israeli officials reaffirmed their commitment to resolving the issue, they said they were not in a position to provide a definitive response since the new Government was undertaking a comprehensive policy review. The Special Coordinator said the issue of Israel’s withdrawal from Ghajar is going to be one of the main areas of work in the coming months. “We believe now with a new Government in Israel, the formation of a new Government in Lebanon, the hard work of UNIFIL, that the atmosphere may be more propitious to a settlement.” He added that he believed the Ghajar issue “is far more achievable in the short run” than that of the Shab’a Farms area, which Lebanon and Syria have yet to resolve. The establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two neighbours over the past year, he noted, provides a “sound basis” on which to tackle their border issues.“We believe that with the successful implementation of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, and other positive developments in the relations between the two countries… that the next step to be taken will be the delineation of the common border between the two countries.”Mr. Williams said a “deeply disturbing” development in recent months was the uncovering of alleged Israeli spy networks in many parts of Lebanon.“If these allegations are confirmed in court, this would constitute a very serious violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and, consequently, undermine relevant Security Council resolutions,” he stated. As for allegations that UNIFIL was facilitating the passage of individuals involved in the spy rings across the Blue Line, Mr. Williams described them as “without foundation.” Despite these developments, he said he believed that, “three years after the 2006 war, with the renewal of a democratic mandate for the new Government of Lebanon that Prime Minister Saad Hariri is trying to form, there is a sound basis in the coming months for proceeding with the further implementation of 1701.” 8 July 2009The formation of new Governments in Lebanon and Israel bodes well for the implementation of the Security Council resolution that helped to end their 2006 war, a senior United Nations envoy said today, while lamenting the lack of progress on several key outstanding issues.

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