8432nd Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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19-Dec-2018 01:40:26
Tunnels under ‘Blue Line’ between Lebanon, Israel violate Resolution 1701 (2006), peacekeeping chief says, urging calm in briefing to Security Council at 8432nd meeting.

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Confirming the existence of tunnels dug under the “Blue Line” separating Lebanon and Israel, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today that they represent a violation of Council resolution 1701 (2006).

“This is a matter of serious concern,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, appealing for calm on the part of both countries. He was briefing the Council during a meeting called after Israel’s 4 December announcement that it was conducting an operation to uncover and disable tunnels dug by Hizbullah. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) subsequently confirmed the existence of the tunnels, discovered through its own investigation.

The mission will complete the investigation and work with both the Lebanese and Israeli authorities to ensure that the tunnels are disabled decisively and safely, he continued. He added that Lebanese authorities have been asked to ensure urgent follow-up and to work with UNIFIL. “This is a matter of serious concern,” he emphasized.

Commending the stated commitment by the Israeli and Lebanese armed forces to avoid escalation and coordinate through UNIFIL, he stressed: “The potential for miscalculation, however, cannot be underestimated.” They have both been reminded that provocative activities along the Blue Line and heightened rhetoric will increase possible risks, he added, noting that UNIFIL defused protests and a tense stand-off in the area. The mission has deployed additional troops and liaison teams to help maintain calm and meet their mandated obligations, and will continue to inform the Council of relevant developments he said.

In the ensuing discussion, the delegates of both Lebanon and Israel presented their perspectives on the issue.

“The Lebanese State did not commit any violations,” Lebanon’s representative insisted, while citing Israel’s daily violations of resolution 1701 (2006) by land, sea and air. That amounts to some 1,800 incidents annually, she pointed out. She said the meeting thus represents a double standard since the reports on Israel’s violations are buried in the archives, whereas Lebanon’s complaints quickly result in Council meetings. Recalling the destruction wrought by Israeli invasions, she said that while her delegation takes the matter very seriously, it is not interested in a new conflict. She reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006) as well as its willingness to engage through the UNIFIL tripartite mechanism to resolve the situation peacefully.

Israel’s representative said the tunnels were dug so that Hizbullah can invade his country after first surrounding the town of Metula and killing all its civilians as part of its known “Conquering the Galilee” plan. To prevent that, Israel took action on its own side of the Blue Line, relaying the information to UNIFIL, which contacted the Lebanese Army, he added. Instead of destroying the tunnels, however, the army relayed the information directly to Hizbullah due to the Iran-backed terrorist organization’s grip over Lebanon. He urged UNIFIL to take up its responsibility and address Hizbullah’s military build-up, saying it has turned Lebanon into a base to destroy Israel, and called upon the Council to demand that the mission have full access to its area of operation.

Ahead of those statements, Council members reinforced the Under‑Secretary‑General’s appeal to maintain calm and prevent escalation, with most calling for full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), while emphasizing the importance of UNIFIL’s role in that regard. Many urged the parties to continue using the mission’s tripartite mechanism to communicate and quell tensions.

Some speakers agreed that the tunnels represent a clear violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and urged Lebanese authorities to ensure follow-, with Sweden’s representative condemning all violations of the resolution by either side, while acknowledging the threat posed by Hizbullah’s paramilitary capacities. Some of those speakers laid the blame for the tunnels and for the instability along the Blue Line squarely on Hizbullah. The representative of the United States demanded: “What further proof do we need?” He called for full UNIFIL access to its area of operation and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself.

Other speakers, however, maintained that Israel’s threats against Lebanon were the main obstacle to implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). Kuwait’s representative, citing that country’s intensive monitoring and occupation of Lebanese territory, declared: “We must distinguish between terrorism and legitimate resistance.”

Also speaking were representatives of France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, China, Kazakhstan, Peru, Russian Federation, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Poland, Bolivia and Côte d’Ivoire.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12 p.m.

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