Lebanon: exceptional capacity to respond of UNIFIL [fr]
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council – 19 December 2018
I thank Jean-Pierre Lacroix for his briefing on the latest developments along the Blue Line.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the outstanding work of the personnel of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who have shown exceptional capacity to respond in recent days and made it possible to maintain calm along the Blue Line. That is a fact and must be said.
First, I would like to express our serious concerns about the discovery by the Israeli Defense Forces of tunnels entering Israeli territory, which were dug by Hizbullah from Lebanon and confirmed by UNIFIL. We have said it unequivocally and we repeat it — those tunnels constitute a clear violation of resolution 1701 (2006), which calls for the cessation of hostilities along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. Those activities must stop.
We have expressed our concern to the Lebanese authorities and call on all parties to exercise the utmost caution and restraint. That is imperative, especially in a context where the risk is high of escalation resulting from misunderstandings, misinterpretations, miscalculation and anticipation errors. Maintaining calm along the Blue Line, for which UNIFIL works daily, remains essential for the entire region. It is therefore crucial that both parties respect all the terms of resolution 1701 (2006) and refrain from any provocation. President Aoun announced that the Lebanese authorities had taken on board the gravity of the situation and were ready to respond appropriately. We encourage them to continue in that direction and to ensure that the Lebanese Armed Forces are able to take action on two key counts: first, in conducting appropriate investigations together with UNIFIL, following the discovery of the tunnels; and, secondly, to maintain calm and avoid any escalation along the Blue Line.
Moving on to my second point, I would like to come back to address the responsiveness of, and efforts undertaken by, UNIFIL since 4 December to independently shed light on this matter. The Force mobilized immediately following the Israeli revelations. It carried out its own independent verification of the situation, making it impossible to call into question its declarations on proven violations of resolution 1701 (2006) and confirming the credibility of those claims. In that regard, I wish to commend the professionalism of the Head of Mission, Major General Stefano Del Col, who was able to fulfil his duties while maintaining the trust of all parties.
UNIFIL has put in place follow-up measures to formally establish the trajectory of the tunnels, and Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix has once again informed us that the Force is ready to use all of the prerogatives at its disposal, while fully respecting its mandate, of course. We call on the Lebanese and Israeli authorities to continue their close cooperation with the Force, as well as their dialogue, particularly within the framework of tripartite meetings, which play a vital role in preventing any escalation of the situation on the ground. It is also important, as I have said, that the Lebanese army have access to the site, with the support of UNIFIL.
In that context, and this is my final point, the swift establishment of a Lebanese Government of balanced national unity remains essential within a deteriorated regional context in order to revitalize the country’s institutions, carry out the necessary reforms and ensure the strengthening of the Lebanese State. Recent events highlight that imperative need.
In that context, we welcome the efforts undertaken by the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Mr. Saad Hariri, in carrying out those tasks and we encourage all Lebanese parties to work in a spirit of compromise. We reiterate France’s commitment to supporting the future Government of Lebanon and the commitments made by the Lebanese authorities with a view to implementing resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006), as well as the policy of dissociation. Lebanon’s disassociation from regional conflicts and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries are essential to its stability. We also encourage Lebanon to relaunch its national defence strategy, in line with President Aoun’s statements. Finally, it is important that the Government devote itself to the reforms that Lebanon needs and that the Lebanese people expect, especially with regard to its economy.
We will continue to support the Lebanese Armed Forces through our contingent in UNIFIL and within the framework of the announcements made at the Rome II conference. We also remain fully committed to supporting Lebanon’s stability through our economic support, following the CEDRE conference, held on 6 April.
In order to confront this situation, our response should be twofold: in the immediate future, we must ensure calm and shed light on the tunnels that have been uncovered, by cooperating with the Lebanese authorities and UNIFIL in order to continue the investigative work; and in the longer term, we must continue to provide support, along with our international partners, to the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Lebanese State in order to enable them to meet the critical challenge of controlling the entire Lebanese territory and stabilizing the Blue Line. It is essential that the Council remain united in order to contribute to those two objectives. The Council can count on France’s full commitment to that end.