Israel's claims regarding Hizbullah and Lebanese violations of the international agreement to keep arms away from its northern border has fallen on deaf ears at the United Nations, which continued on Tuesday to point a finger at Israel as the top violator of the August cease-fire agreement that halted hostilities between Hizbullah and Israel.
The United Nation views Israel's strategy of flying over Lebanon to monitor Hizbullah activity as a "serious" violation of Lebanon's territorial integrity, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told The Jerusalem Post.
"We do consider the air violations to be quite serious," he said, adding that the Security Council was kept abreast of all violations by both Israel and Lebanon with respect to the August cease-fire.
Israel has argued that must send surveillance planes over Lebanon to monitor Hizbullah activity and ensure compliance with the terms of UN Resolution 1701 prohibiting Hizbullah from rearming along the border. Israel says that Hizbullah is rearming itself within southern Lebanon.
But according to Ivanao Alexander, a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), there are "almost no Hizbullah violations" of the resolution.
Both the United Nations and the European Union have said that it is in Israel's best interest to halt such flights.
"The UN is doing all it can to implement the resolution," said Haq. One of its main concerns was border violations such as those executed by Israel when it flies over Lebanon, he added.
Haq said that, irrespective of any action by Hizbullah, Israel is bound to act within the terms of the resolution.
Alexander said that most of the cease-fire violations were committed by the Israelis. UNIFIL had counted slightly more than 100 cease-fire violations by Israelis compared to half a dozen violations on the part of the Lebanese, he said. Included in UNIFIL's list of Israeli violations are some 40 surveillance flights over Lebanon, Alexander said, and the rest of the violations involved minor infractions with regard to border crossings, particularly by engineers working in the border town of Ghajar.
On the Lebanese side, Alexander said, there were only half a dozen violations that mostly involve a number of shepherds that wandered across the border.
The European Union's External Relations Council on Tuesday urged both sides to adhere to the cease-fire. It asked Israel to respect Lebanese sovereignty over land, sea and air and at the same time called for the release of the two kidnapped IDF soldiers. The subject of the surveillance planes was not mentioned in the council's published remarks.
A source in the EU, however, said that the international community had put a lot of effort into ensuring the implementation of Resolution 1701 and that it was in Israel's own interest to stop the flights. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev that he felt the problem was on the Lebanese side.
Israel pulled out from Lebanon last month with the understanding that Resolution 1701 would be implemented, he said.
"At the moment, you have a situation where Israel has substantially fulfilled what we are obligated to do and on the Lebanese side their obligations are still in play," he said.
"Are there Hizbullah armed personnel staff south of the Litani River in direct contradiction to what the resolution stipulates?" he asked rhetorically, adding, "Have the two soldiers Hizbullah kidnapped on July 12 been released?" and "Have mechanisms been established to prevent the transfer of illicit weapons to Hizbullah?"
"I think that any objective person looking at the situation would see that the onus to fulfill UN Resolution 1701 is now squarely on the Lebanese side," said Regev.
On Monday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that Israel was gathering proof that Syria was continuing to smuggle arms into Lebanon. When queried about the claim, Alexander said that UNIFIL was not monitoring the Syrian border with Lebanon.
But to make sure that foreign governments understood the ongoing problems in Lebanon, Israel had been speaking about Lebanese violations of Resolution 1701 with the Europeans, said Regev, who noted that the Foreign Ministry's director-general was in Europe and that the prime minister was in Russia.
"With all foreign governments we raise the implementation of 1701. It is obviously a focal point of Israeli diplomacy," said Regev.
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