Ban: Israel, Lebanon cease-fire fragile

UN chief says peace prospect threatened by allegations of Israeli spy ring, Lebanese "militias."

Ban Ki Moon 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ban Ki Moon 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Members of the UN Security Council convened behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the "fragile" cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon. The meeting took place a day after a UN report found that hostilities could erupt again over unresolved issues related to Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006. In the report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the fragile relationship between Israel and Lebanon was threatened by allegations of Israeli spy cells operating in Lebanon, and by Israeli concerns that Lebanese "militias" are operating outside of state control and that Hizbullah has been deployed to southern Lebanon. On Wednesday, the Special Coordinator of the Secretary-General for Lebanon, Michael Williams, expressed confidence that progress could be made by the new governments in Israel and in Lebanon, the latter of which held elections June 7. But he rebuked Israel, saying, "Israeli over-flights continue unabated." According to Williams, a focus for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon in the coming months would be the withdrawal of IDF units from parts of the village of Ghajar. He described the allegations of an Israeli spy network in Lebanon as "particularly disturbing." "If these allegations are confirmed in court, this would constitute a very serious violation of Lebanese sovereignty and undermine security," he said. But Ambassador Danny Carmon, Israel's deputy permanent representative to the UN, said Wednesday that there had been major problems with the implementation of Resolution 1701, in particular regarding the deployment of Hizbullah forces in southern Lebanon. "Everybody knows Hizbullah is there, everybody knows what Hizbullah means. Hizbullah is a terrorist organization," he said. Such deployment is a violation of the resolution, he said, arguing that the UN report should have been more explicit in describing the situation in Lebanon, "namely that Hizbullah is there and there is a potential and danger by this deployment." Carmon said a second strategic concern regarding the resolution was the border between Syria and Lebanon, seen as a route for the flow of arms. The UN report did not include tough enough language on the border issue, he said. One Western diplomat said there was a general sense that Resolution 1701 is not fully implemented at this point, and that more work is to be done. "There is discussion about certain steps on both sides," the individual said. "I think there is strong support by Council members for a free and independent, sovereign Lebanon." In the report, which covers events since the last report was issued in early March, Ban called on Lebanon to secure its border with Syria and for Israel to withdraw from areas north of the so-called Blue Line, which separates Israeli and Lebanese forces. Ban cited Israel handing over data on cluster bombs as a sign of progress. "Almost three years after Resolution 1701 was adopted, it remains the best available blueprint for the parties to move from the current state of cessation of hostilities towards a permanent cease-fire and a long-term solution," he wrote.