Security Council Briefing: Middle East / Lebanon
Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York
New York, 19 December 2018
Thank you very much, Mr. President,
First of all, we thank Mr. Lacroix for his detailed briefing.
Let me also at the outset express our appreciation of the work UNIFIL has been doing since the discovery of the tunnels. We especially commend the able leadership of force commander major-general Del Col.
Mr. President, after we had the chance to discuss this matter in closed consultations last week, let me reiterate three points today:
- Our condemnation of the tunnels;
- Appreciation of UNIFIL’s role and necessary steps forward;
- The need for a sustainable solution.
1. Our condemnation of the tunnels
Mr. President, my first point: on the Hezbollah tunnels. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is very concerned about the discovery of 4 tunnels – constructed by Hezbollah – on the northern Israeli border with Lebanon.
We strongly condemn these tunnel activities that are part of Hezbollah’s illegal and destabilizing activities in Lebanon and in the region. Hezobollah’s actions are a flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty and of international law, such as laid down in Security Council resolution 1701.
These tunnels pose a serious threat to regional stability. We recognize the Israeli right to defend itself, within the limits of international law, and underline that the Israeli concerns for its security are legitimate.
We support the Israeli response by destroying these tunnels, that cross into Israeli territory, on the Israeli side of the Blue Line.
It is clear that these tunnels must be taken seriously by the international community and by this Council in particular.
2. UNIFIL’s role and necessary steps forward
Mr. President, this brings me to my second point, on UNIFIL’s role and necessary steps forward. We highly appreciate and support UNIFIL’s role and proactive actions since the discovery of the tunnels.
UNIFIL has been checking the tunnels on the Israeli side and has concluded so far that two of the four tunnels indeed cross the blue line, violating resolution 1701.
UNIFIL has been able to decrease tensions. In doing so, the tripartite mechanism has again proven its added value.
Also, UNIFIL has been in close contact with the Lebanese authorities. The Lebanese Armed Forces have sent a very clear message on the need for an investigation on the Northern side of the Blue Line.
Now, in our view, the following steps forward are needed:
- As a first step, the Lebanese government and the LAF must take this issue very seriously and act responsibly. It is now more than two weeks after the discovery of the first tunnel, so an investigation of the alleged starting points of the tunnels on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line now is urgently needed.
We welcome the announced willingness of the Lebanese government to cooperate and allow access to the alleged starting points of the tunnels. We call on the Lebanese government to make true on its commitment. The inspections should be carried out as soon as possible, by the LAF in close cooperation with UNIFIL.
We are looking forward to further information and a conclusion of the investigations by UNIFIL.
- A second step is the need for full respect of Security Council resolution 1701 and 1559. Although the current situation is relatively calm and escalation has been prevented so far, violations on both sides of the Blue Line remain frequent.
We therefore call upon both sides to maintain this calm by fully respecting and implementing both Security Council resolutions.
3. The need for a sustainable solution
Mr. President, my third point on the need for a sustainable solution. In our view, the current situation reaffirms the need for such a sustainable solution. This would include:
- The formation of a national unity government in Lebanon without further delay;
- The development of a National Defence Strategy in Lebanon;
- And, a clear recommitment to the full implementation of the disassociation policy by the Lebanese Government. And in that context, Hezbollah should end its illegal and destabilizing activities.
This must be combined with continued international support to Lebanon, including for the much needed socio-economic reforms and in building up the Lebanese Armed Forces.
In conclusion, Mr. President, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will continue doing its part in assisting Lebanon on this path. My government has engaged in a long-term partnership with this beautiful country and we will continue to do our utmost to be a true friend of the Lebanese people.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.