Thu, 09 Jul 2009 Israel



7 July - The cessation of hostilities between Israel and Lebanon continues to hold but remains fragile owing to a number of unresolved issues, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, calling for greater efforts to seek a permanent ceasefire between the two neighbours.

“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 ceasefire and a long-term solution,” Mr. Ban writes to the Security Council regarding implementation of the text which helped to end the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

The 2006 resolution called for renewed respect for the Blue Line separating the Lebanese forces and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the disarming of militias and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.

Mr. Ban notes that a permanent ceasefire will only be achieved through the adoption of concrete measures on these and other issues he outlines in the report, which covers the period since his previous report of 3 March.

Among the progress made in recent months, the Secretary-General cites efforts by the parties, in cooperation with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), to visibly mark the Blue Line, as well as the handover by Israel of technical strike data on cluster bombs to UNIFIL.

At the same time, he voices concern at the allegations by Lebanon's Government that Israeli spy cells have been operating in Lebanon and that the IDF helped alleged spies to cross from Lebanon into Israel through the Blue Line.

If these allegations are proved to be true, he writes, they could endanger the fragile cessation of hostilities that exists.

Mr. Ban also expresses concern about the presence of armed groups in Lebanon operating outside the control of the State, which poses a challenge to the ability of the State to exercise full control over its territory.

“The United Nations continues to believe that the disarmament of all armed groups should take place through a Lebanese-led political process, so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than those authorized by the State,” he says.

Crucial to ensuring there is no flow of weapons to groups outside the control of the State, Mr. Ban points out, is for all Member States to respect the arms embargo imposed on Lebanon as part of resolution 1701, as well as for the Lebanese Government to secure control of its border with Syria.

Another concern mentioned in the report is the continued occupation by the IDF of the part of the village of Ghajar, and an adjacent area of land, that lies north of the Blue Line. Mr. Ban calls on Israel to complete its withdrawal from the area without delay, in accordance with its obligations under resolution 1701.

The Secretary-General also pledges to continue his diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the issue of the Shab'a Farms area, and encouraged Israel and Syria to submit their responses to the provisional definition of the area that he had provided.