Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
August 29, 2019
Thank you, Madame President. The United States joined consensus in support of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandate renewal today. We commend France for the cooperative spirit in which it led this process. I also want to express our deep appreciation to the troop-contributing countries for their ongoing sacrifices to support UNIFIL’s critical work.
And we of course welcome the active approach that UNIFIL’s leadership has taken to de-escalate tensions along the Blue Line and preserve the mission’s vital access to it.
The United States remains steadfast in our commitment to UNIFIL and to Lebanon’s security, stability, and sovereignty. We have a common interest in seeing UNIFIL succeed, but it continues to be prevented from fully implementing its mandate; and we cannot continue to accept the status quo.
The implementation of the arms embargo under resolution 1701 remains a top priority for the United States. While some Council members did not want to include language that was too prescriptive in this mandate renewal, in the coming year the Secretariat needs to take serious steps to build on the annex and increase the UN’s reporting on, and ability to effectively monitor and verify implementation of, the arms embargo.
As we made clear to the Council just a few weeks ago, we continue to see UNIFIL prevented from accessing areas of concern. Eight months after their discovery, UNIFIL still cannot access suspected Hizballah tunnels sites on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line because Lebanese leaders have not directed their armed forces to investigate suspected sites with UNIFIL.
In this renewal, we made serious efforts to address access issues. There was some progress, but we were unable to include a timeframe for facilitating access, which is necessary for accountability. We must do more to ensure UNIFIL has unimpeded, timely access to the entire Blue Line and to urge Lebanese civilian leadership to address these concerns.
The fact that UNIFIL cannot access all of the areas within its area of operations leads us to believe that it is time to re-examine troop strength and begin the process of putting the mission on a trajectory toward right-sizing. In the year ahead, we will be scrutinizing the ability of the mission to implement its mandate and we hope the UN will take seriously the assessment of the continued relevance of UNIFIL’s resources and options for mission efficiencies.
We have all endorsed the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping Declaration of Shared Commitments. One of those commitments is to pursue “clear, focused, sequenced, prioritized and achievable mandates by the Security Council matched by appropriate resources.” If UNIFIL is prevented from fully implementing its mission within the parameters of its current mandate, then it is this Council’s responsibility to adjust its mandate accordingly.
We look forward to working with the Council over the course of the year, but I must reiterate that we need to see serious progress and cannot, and will not, accept the status quo moving forward.
Thank you, Madame President.