Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 31, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. The United States welcomes today’s renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate for an additional year, and we thank France, as penholder, for its constructive engagement on this renewal. The United States appreciates the international community’s support for Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) during the country’s ongoing crisis.
We are pleased to see this mandate reauthorize UNIFIL’s provision of non-lethal material and logistical support to the LAF, which will help the LAF to extend and sustain state authority in southern Lebanon, including by increasing joint activities with UNIFIL and accelerating deployment of a Model Regiment. Through this new mandate, the Council reaffirms UNIFIL’s authority to operate independently and to conduct both announced and unannounced patrols under the terms of its Status of Forces Agreement with the Government of Lebanon and consistent with the terms of the mission’s mandate.
This is an important reminder as the Secretary-General has reported that UNIFIL peacekeepers are blocked with increasing frequency from conducting their mandated tasks and accessing sites of concern. The proliferation of prefabricated containers placed by Green Without Borders obstructs UNIFIL’s access to the Blue Line and is heightening tensions in the area, further demonstrating that this so-called environmental group is acting on Hizballah’s behalf. The presence of firing ranges in UNIFIL’s area of responsibility, a serious escalation of Hizballah’s open defiance of Resolution 1701, is also increasing tensions in southern Lebanon.
We urge the Lebanese authorities, as the host state, to facilitate UNIFIL’s full and timely access to UNIFIL’s entire area of operations, including the entire Blue Line, the firing ranges, Green Without Borders sites and containers, the tunnel sites, and all other sites of concern to which UNIFIL requires access in order to fulfil its mandate. Ensuring UNIFIL’s peacekeepers are able to move freely is also critical to helping mitigate the growing risks to UNIFIL peacekeepers’ safety and security that the UN has documented this year.
Recalling that host governments have primary responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel and assets, we urge the Lebanese authorities to investigate attacks against peacekeepers, hold to account those responsible, and proactively work to deter hostility toward peacekeepers.
The United States underlines that the area between the Blue Line and Litani River must be free of weapons except for those used by the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL. The Secretary-General continues to document a proliferation of unauthorized weapons in this area.
On a technical matter, Mr. President, we must clarify our position with respect to operative paragraph 21 condemning the presence of these weapons, because the provision of Resolution 1701 that calls for this area to be free of unauthorized weapons is not legally binding. “Violation” is therefore not the correct terminology. The precise terminology aside, the United States shares this Council’s significant concern about the state of affairs in southern Lebanon – in particular, Hizballah’s threatening activities. With this resolution, the Security Council has made clear that Hizballah’s continued amassing of weapons must stop.
In conclusion, we call on Lebanese authorities to prevent such activities and on UNIFIL to fulfil its mandate by patrolling the entire area between the Blue Line and the Litani River. Thank you.