Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter in the UN Security Council meeting on UNIFIL, August 11, 2020

11.08.2020 - Speech

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Thanks to Jan and to Jean Pierre for their briefings, which were particularly important today. A week ago, we all would have expected that this would be more or less normal meeting on the situation in Lebanon and on the mission. After the explosions on the 4th of August, we know better and we know that today we have many more aspects to discuss. So let me touch on a couple of them.

My first point is on the explosion in Beirut. We are still shocked about the horrible explosion. We express our deepest sympathy for the victims and their families. One German colleague was among the victims. Given the harsh consequences of the explosion, Germany has provided immediate emergency support. We also contributed at Sunday's donor conference. This conference sent out an overwhelmingly encouraging signal of support and of hope to the people in Lebanon. We know that there were UNIFIL peacekeepers among the many, many people who have been injured. We extend our thoughts to them and to their families, and we wish them a swift recovery.

This explosion struck at a time when the domestic situation in Lebanon has already been deeply worrying. It has now created an extremely fragile situation. Since our last session in May, Lebanon's difficult situation has not improved. Covid-19 is still spreading. Necessary reforms have not been tackled. We have still not seen the credible will to unite in order to overcome the challenges the country is facing. However, we do now see that people have lost trust in their government. Their anger and their deep frustration are understandable. It is now absolutely important to channel this anger constructively, to support Lebanon in a sustainable way that takes the legitimate demands of the people into consideration.

The time to act is now. Lebanon needs ambitious and comprehensive reforms in order to recover from trauma, to reinstate trust in its authorities, and to pay for sustainable way for a better future. The Lebanese deserve that we help lay the foundation for a state that offers its citizens democratic rights, freedoms and opportunities for participation.

I would now like to make remarks on the role of UNIFIL. We are worried by the recent tensions near the borderline and violations of the provisions of Resolution 1701 by both sides. The recent tensions and the danger of escalation only underline the importance of UNIFIL presence on the ground. In the new political reality in Lebanon since last week, this is more important than ever. Therefore, we commend the mission and its force commander for their efforts to de-escalate, to maintain the communication channels between the parties and thereby preserve stability in such a fragile context.

UNIFIL's mandate continues to be of utmost importance. It is clear that UNIFIL will not be able to do more with less. We therefore fully support UNIFIL in its current mandate and strength, and we hope that the Council will once more show unanimous support to this important mission. We also fully support the principle goals of the Secretary General's Assessment Report that aims at making UNIFIL more agile and efficient. We support the remarks made by the Secretary-General in his latest letter to the Security Council, in which he proposes a renewed mandate for 12 months, recalls that high troop intensity is indispensable for de-escalation and prevention, and ties a potential reduction in the maritime task force vessels to increase the capacities of the LAF Navy. We, as Germany, remain committed to our engagement in the maritime task force, an engagement we have shown since the task force's inception.

It is of paramount importance that the mission can fulfill its mandate without restrictions and with the full cooperation of the Lebanese authorities, in particular the Lebanese armed forces. It is unacceptable that UNIFIL teams are blocked and attacked. We call upon all parties, especially Lebanon, to ensure effective implementation of UNIFIL's mandate, and to investigate any incidents. We welcome continued and detailed reporting by the United Nations on all incidents where UNIFIL was prevented from freely moving in its area of operations or was denied access.

Allow me to make a remark on Hezbollah. We condemn any action that threatens the security of Israel. Hezbollah's continued access to arms constitutes such a threat. We expect the Lebanese government to take this very seriously and to finally take measures that address this longstanding issue.

Thank you.


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