Lebanon won a seat in the UN Security Council on Thursday, raising concerns about how it would implement resolutions directly impacting it.
Unlike previous elections, there were no contested seats and five non-permanent members easily won election to the Council in a vote by the 192-member General Assembly. Lebanon won a regional endorsement from the Asian group to succeed Vietnam in the 15-member Council, whose five permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - wield veto power. The new members also include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon and Nigeria. Lebanon has not been a member of the Council since 1953-54.
But Israeli officials expressed concern for how Lebanon would navigate resolutions pertaining to itself and the region, as the Council has had Lebanon on its agenda for decades.
Yossi Levy, the Foreign Ministry's spokesman for the Israeli media, said that a state serving on the Council "is required to demonstrate special responsibility, especially when their own issues, such as resolutions 1701, 1559, 1680 and the tribunal looking into the killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri are on the agenda."
Levy said that considering the recent events in southern Lebanon, especially the recent blast in the home of a senior Hizbullah official in southern Lebanon, "We can only hope that Lebanon will fulfill all its commitments and fully implement the resolutions of the Council."
Levy said Israel hoped Lebanon's efforts on the council would advance peace and security in our region.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations after the vote, UK Ambassador to the UN John Sawers expressed hope for a similar outcome. "It is going to be an even stronger Security Council, I think, next year," he said.
"We have two countries in Lebanon and Bosnia who have been through conflict and can bring their own national experiences to the Security Council," he noted. "I think also for both those countries, Bosnia and Lebanon, the experience to be on the Council will help strengthen their national government systems to enable them to take decisions, take a view at the center on international issues and broaden the context of those governments."
But despite the smooth and uncontested election, there were concerns about Lebanon's assuming the Council seat. Since 1978, UN peacekeepers have been deployed in Southern Lebanon long the Israeli border. A UN-backed tribunal is mulling indictments in the 2005 assassination of Hariri.
Following the June 7 elections, the political situation in Lebanon has been fragile and in July, an explosion in Southern Lebanon revealed a Hizbullah arms cache. Another explosion in October 12 prompted Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, to ask for an investigation by UNIFIL.
Asked by reporters in New York if Lebanon would abstain from votes dealing with Iran because of Hizbullah's close ties to Teheran, Egypt's permanent representative to the UN, Maged Abdelaziz said it "depends on the circumstances."
In the past, countries on the Council's agenda have abstained on some issues because of conflicts of interest.
Acknowledging the challenges Lebanon will face in the Council, Abdelaziz said: "We have full faith in Lebanon as a representative of the Arab Group."
The Lebanese ambassador to the UN, Nawaf Salam, declined to provide specific answers when questioned by reporters in New York, saying he would have many months to speak to the press. But he said Lebanon would promote international law and dialogue from its new Council seat. He pledged to "work for a more just and democratic international system."