So-called Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war and more recently in Iraq risks a spillover of sectarian tensions into Lebanon where ISIS and al-Nusra Front are reported to be expanding, U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen warned Friday.
Roed-Larsen expressed serious concern that not only have Hezbollah and other militias continued their activities since the U.N. Security Council ordered them to disband in 2004 through resolution 1559 “but if anything they have expanded.”
Hezbollah has deployed in Syria, backing Bashar Assad, who heads the regime.
The envoy also expressed concern at the reported expansion of extremist groups, mostly in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps.
He called for the urgent disbanding of all militias in his final briefing to the Council before stepping down on May 31 after 12 years, saying “their growing capabilities … represent a major and dangerous threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and political independence.”
The Associated Press obtained the text of his closed briefing to the Security Council.
Lebanon also faces serious political and humanitarian challenges.
Its parliament has failed to elect a president since May 2014 because of a lack of quorum amid political disagreements between the rival blocs, and parliamentary polls have been postponed for security concerns linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon is currently hosting over one million Syrian refugees and 41,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria.
Roed-Larsen, who deals with the implementation of resolution 1559 that among other things calls for all militias operating in Lebanon to be disarmed and demobilized, urged international support for the country’s armed forces to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He called on Hezbollah and other parties to implement Lebanon’s 2012 policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts that was adopted at the Baabda Palace under then President Michel Suleiman.
He also urged Hezbollah and Israel to refrain from recent “provocative rhetoric” and abide by their obligations.
As for the vacuum at the Baabda Palace, Roed-Larsen urged Lebanese officials “to set aside their partisan differences” and elect a head of state without further delay.
“At the Council today, I spoke at length about the presidential vacuum and its negative effect on the ability of Lebanon to make important decisions. The current paralysis undermines the institutions that have proven effective in running the country,” he said at a press stakeout following the closed-door consultations with the Security Council.
The presidential elections are an “internal matter” and the international community should only advise Lebanese decision makers, leaving the election of a head of state to the parliament, Roed-Larsen added.