Press Releases

    20 October 2004

    Reaffirming Strong Support for Lebanon’s Sovereignty and Independence, Security Council “Notes With Concern” that Requirements of Resolution 1559 Remain Unmet

    In Presidential Statement, Council Urges Full Implementation, Welcomes Secretary-General’s Assistance

    NEW YORK, 19 October (UN Headquarters) -- Reaffirming its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon, the Security Council noted with concern that the requirements set out in resolution 1559 (2004), by which the Council had declared its support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon and called on all remaining foreign forces there to withdraw, had not been met.

    Through the adoption of presidential statement (document S/PRST/2004/36) read out by the Council’s President for the month, Adam Thomson (United Kingdom), the Council urged relevant parties to fully implement all provisions of the text, and welcomed the Secretary-General’s readiness to assist the parties in that regard.

    Today’s action follows receipt of the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2004/777), dated 1 October, in which he states that the requirements set out in resolution 1559, adopted on 2 September, had not been met. The report also states that it is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestige of the past. The Secretary-General adds that the withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history.

    In addition to the Secretary-General’s report, the Council also had before it a letter dated 5 October from the Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the Secretary-General (document S/2004/794). In it, Lebanon reiterates that the question of the departure of the Syrian army from Lebanon is governed by bilateral relations and agreements between Lebanon and Syria, and depends on peace and defence requirements and the mutual security interests of the two countries in the absence of a just and comprehensive peace in the region, and in light of the implications of Israel’s continued occupation and spoiling of opportunities for peaceful political solutions.

    The letter states further that one could not lose sight of the importance of that alliance for confronting and tackling the “extremist currents that are fed and encouraged by Israel’s behaviour aimed at blowing up the region”, not to mention the requirements of internal security, stability and the war on terrorism, which are governed by considerations and circumstances specific to the two countries.  Lebanon’s relations with Syria would not disappear with the departure of the Syrian army from Lebanon, since they existed prior to its arrival and throughout its current deployment and would continue after it left.  The question has again and again been one of appropriate timing and method and of Lebanon’s sovereign right in all these matters and above all else.

    Similarly, a letter from Syria’s Permanent Representative to the Council President (document S/2004/796), dated 7 October, reiterating the position he had communicated in a letter to the Secretary-General and the Security Council on 2 September, says that the discussion of Syrian-Lebanese bilateral relations in the Council constituted a precedent that would make the Council a tool for “illegal interference” in the internal affairs of independent States Members of the United Nations.  This is in conflict with Article 2, paragraph 7, of the United Nations Charter, which explicitly prohibits intervention of the United Nations “in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State”.

    The discussion in the Council was also a violation of the functions of the Council defined in the Charter, particularly in view of the fact that the privileged fraternal ties existing between Syria and Lebanon posed no threat to international security and peace, and there existed no complaint by either of those States against the other, he states, adding his hope that the Council would shoulder its responsibilities and prevail upon Israel to comply with the more than 40 resolutions adopted by the Council that call upon Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967 as a basis for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the region.

    The meeting was called to order at 10:17 a.m. and adjourned at 10:22 a.m.

    Presidential Statement

    Following is the text of today’s presidential statement (document S/PRST/36):

          “The Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 3 October 2004 (S/2004/777) on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) of 2 September 2004.

          “The Security Council takes note of the letter from the Permanent Representative of Lebanon dated 5 October (S/2004/794) and of the note verbale from the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic dated 6 October 2004 (S/2004/796).

          “The Security Council reaffirms its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders.

          “The Council notes with concern that the requirements set out in resolution 1559 (2004) have not been met, as reported by the Secretary-General.  The Council urges relevant parties to implement fully all provisions of this resolution, and welcomes the Secretary-General’s readiness to assist the parties in this regard.

          “The Security Council appreciates the Secretary-General’s intention to keep the Council updated.  It requests that he continue to report on the implementation of the resolution to the Council every six months.”


    Before the Council is a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2004/777) on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004) of 2 September, by which the Council had declared its support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon and, in that connection, had called on all remaining foreign forces there to withdraw. In the present report, which is submitted in response to a request made in that resolution that the Secretary-General report within 30 days on implementation by the parties, he notes that the requirements on the various parties set out in that resolution have not been met.  He is ready to assist the parties, as needed, in implementation and, if required, to keep the Council regularly updated with any information in this regard.

    According to the report, apart from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and to the best of his ability to ascertain, the “only significant foreign forces deployed in Lebanon, as of 30 September 2004, are Syrian”.  Syria has maintained forces in Lebanon since 1976, which at one point numbered 40,000 according to the Lebanese Government.  Both Governments have told the Secretary-General that the Syrian forces present in Lebanon are there at Lebanon’s invitation and that their presence is by mutual agreement. Specifically, they are said to be deployed pursuant to the Taif Agreement of 1989 and the Syria-Lebanon Treaty of Cooperation ratified by both countries in 1991.  As far as the Secretary-General knows, the two Governments have not concluded the further agreement “to determine the strength and duration of the presence of Syrian forces” that is provided for in both of those instruments.

    In addition to the uniformed Syrian armed forces in Lebanon, the report says that the Syrian Government has informed the United Nations that there is also a substantial presence of non-uniformed military intelligence officials which, it says, are usual components of military units.  The Syrian military and intelligence apparatus in Lebanon had not been withdrawn as of 30 September, but, according to announcements by the two Governments, Syria has, in recent weeks, redeployed approximately 3,000 of its forces formerly deployed south of Beirut.  It has not been made clear to the United Nations whether these redeployments are confined to regular troops or include non-uniformed military intelligence, and whether they have all returned to Syria.  According to the parties, this is the fifth such redeployment since the signing of the Taif Agreement.

    The Secretary-General states further in the report that the Syrian Government has indicated to him that about 14,000 Syrian troops remain in Lebanon, and are now based near the Syrian border and are not deployed deep inside Lebanon.  Both Governments have told him that the timing of further withdrawals would be determined by the security situation in Lebanon and the region and through the joint military committee established pursuant to the Taif Agreement.  The Lebanese Government has told him that the current fragile security situation in the region, and its concern regarding potential risks to Lebanon’s domestic stability, render it difficult to establish a timetable for the full withdrawal of Syrian forces. 

    Also according to the report, the Lebanese Government has also told the Secretary-General that its ultimate goal is the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from its territory.  In addition, the two Governments have told the Secretary-General that they are actively discussing the nature and extent of the current deployment of Syrian forces in Lebanon.  In this context, the Syrian Government has informed him that it cannot provide him with numbers and timetables for any future withdrawal.  Since the end of the civil war, the Lebanese Government has made great strides in significantly reducing the number of militias present in the country, but, as of 30 September, several armed elements remain in the south. The Government says that it intends that all irregular armed groups ultimately be disbanded.

    The report finds that the most significant remaining armed group in Lebanon is Hezbollah, which the Government refers to, not as a Lebanese militia, but as a “national resistance group”, with the goal of defending Lebanon from Israel and the removal of Israeli forces from Lebanese soil, namely, the Shab’a farms. Lebanon maintains that the Shab’a farms are Lebanese territory, not Syrian.  In the Secretary-General’s report of 16 June 2000, however, he confirmed that Israel has fulfilled the requirements of Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 to “withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory”. The Council endorsed that conclusion on 18 June 2000 in a presidential statement.  Notwithstanding the Lebanese Government’s position that the Shab’a farms area lies within Lebanon, the Government has confirmed that it would respect the Blue Line as identified by the United Nations.  The Council has called on Lebanon to respect fully its line.

    The Secretary-General concludes that he “cannot certify that these requirements (contained in resolution 1559) have been met”. While the objections of the Lebanese and Syrian Governments to the resolution are well known, they have assured the Secretary-General of their respect for the Council, and that consequently they will not contest it. The parties have provided him with information and given him certain assurances as set forth above. The Secretary-General notes these and waits their fulfilment.  He has requested from the parties a timetable for their full implementation.

    Regarding the electoral process, he says it has long been his strong belief -- reiterated most recently at the African Union summit in July -- that governments and leaders should not hold on to office beyond prescribed term limits.  Lebanese public opinion appears to be divided over such issues as the Syrian military presence, the constitutional situation as it related to presidential elections and the continued existence of armed groups not under the direct control of the Government.  But, many are of the view that full implementation of resolution 1559 would be in the interest, not just of Lebanon, but of Syria, too, and of the region and the wider international community.

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