Press Stakeout by UN's Derek Plumbly after briefing UN Security Council on Resolution 1701

13 Nov 2014

Press Stakeout by UN's Derek Plumbly after briefing UN Security Council on Resolution 1701

New York, UNHQ

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

It is very encouraging to come to the Security
Council and to hear the absolute unanimity and unity of Council members with
regard to Lebanon and the needs of Lebanon, the importance of meeting those
needs, the importance of sustaining its stability, the importance of moving
forward with resolution 1701. That very much has been my experience actually
over several years now in this job, but it was particularly the case

Gary (Security Council President Gary
Quinlan) has already set out some of the key points, some of the points on
which there was very precise agreement between Council members and the language
that he read out was agreed language. But what I would tell you about the
discussion was that it was as always an extensive discussion of 1701, what’s
going on the Blue Line and in UNIFIL’s area operations. We have just I suppose
three points really: one is the concern at some of the incidents that have
occurred, quite serious ones, violations of the Line during this past four
month period, frustration too actually -- I mean people talked about a
permanent ceasefire and said
why aren’t people
moving forward on some of these outstanding issues --
but a shared sense
that it is enormously important that over eight years calm has actually been maintained
over the Blue Line and it is an enormous contribution to what remains of
regional peace and security certainly and of enormous benefit to the people on
both sides of the Line and appreciation for what UNIFIL does and for the
cooperation of the parties in ensuring that that goes on, which I think is very
much in everybody’s interest.

The second area of focus was really what
Gary talked about, the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon and really the
growing severity of some of these impacts. People were very focused on the
presence of elements form ISIL-Daesh and Nusra in the mountains beyond Arsal,
on what had happened in Tripoli in the north last month, concerning but yes also
that the
robust response of the Lebanese
army and the united response of the Government and of political leaders across
the political spectrum in Lebanon in support of the army and in support of,
standing up to this extremist threat and I think one has to acknowledge the
success in recent days in the north in that respect, that’s important.

The other impact which people talked
about, and Gary mentioned it, was that of the burden of the refugee presence and
influx on Lebanon, which is exactly as he said thirty percent of the population,
and the need for the Government, for UNHCR, for UN agencies to work very
closely together as was discussed in Berlin recently in order to manage that
effectively and to ensure that the best interest of host communities are met
and also the rights of the refugees respected. We are working very hard now in
Lebanon to put together a new Crisis Response Plan with the Government, with
ministries, all of the ministries concerned and the UN agencies and the donors
so that next year “Inshallah” we will have a good basis on which to go to the international
community and say “help” because help is really needed for the communities that
are hosting people, for all of the vulnerable whether Lebanese or refugees from
Syria and for the Government
education, health, infrastructure and so on which were badly impacted by this
extraordinary explosion in the population basically which Lebanon has
experienced over the past three years.

That actually is a final message that
will come out of all of this: these are burdens that need to be shared. People
talked about the very prompt response actually, after the battles in Arsal and
the fighting there, of the international community to the immediate needs of
the Lebanese Armed Forces and the very substantial assistance that has come
with encouragement from the
Support Group, from the Security Council, from the Secretary-General. My hope
is that we can get very generous support also on the other front, that is to
say the humanitarian one, but we need to tap into development funds as well in
order to try to ensure that some of these pressing social and economic needs that
I mentioned are met.

Thank You.

QUESTION: Thank You Mr. Plumbly. Did you tell the Security Council
members why the Lebanese politicians have failed so far to elect a new president
despite this international unity especially from the Security Council? And also
would you please tell us how dangerous is the situation in Lebanon vis-à-vis
ISIL and Nusra spillover from Syria into Lebanon? Thank you

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: Yes, I mean I describe the situation as I see it and
observe it and the encouragement that we are all giving to Lebanon’s leaders but
it is
a Lebanese matter. This is not something that we can interfere in
or dictate. It is for the Lebanese to decide the way to forward on this but we
as Lebanon’s friends and partners see it as being extremely difficult for
Lebanon that there isn’t a Head of State, a Commander in Chief as the President
of the Council said at this time and it has a very debilitating effect on the
work of Government, Parliament, all of the institutions of the State. So yes
that was a point that I emphasized. What was your second question sorry?

QUESTION: My second question: how dangerous is the spillover
from Syria to Lebanon especially that we know now that Daesh or ISIL-ISIS and El-Nosra
are inside the country? Is the Lebanese army capable to protect the country
from this danger, from the terrorist groups? Thank You.

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: It is a threat you have to take seriously. If you have
several thousand persons on the other side of the sort of front line around
Arsal who have kidnapped Lebanese soldiers and security personnel, done
terrible things already, it has to be taken seriously. On the other hand, I
think the experience in Tripoli, in the north and the international support
that has flowed, and the response so far of not just the government but
politicians across the board, united response in the face of this, the failure of
these calls for people to rise up, quite the reverse was the reaction. It is almost
a cliché to say Lebanon has proven resilient but it has proven extraordinarily
resilient and it can come through with the help of its friends, in my belief.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the situation of refugees. One,
I know that there was the Berlin conference. I have seen it reported or
headlined: Plumbly rules out the naturalization of Syrian refugees. I just
wanted to (inaudible) with you the idea that it is actually up to Lebanon. What
is your position, is it a matter of joining the 1951 Convention or not, can you
just clarify exactly what your role is in terms of deciding the legal status of
refugees there. And also the Belgians that are pulling out of UNIFIL. Are you
aware of a replacement contingent? Is that a routine thing or will it impact
UNIFIL’s ability to police the Blue Line?

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: Yes, I can absolutely confirm what I said when I think
it was As-Safir that asked me that question. There is absolutely no question of
settling refugees from Syria in Lebanon. And Lebanon’s position on the refugee
convention is well understood, it is not just Lebanon’s there are other Arab
countries who have the same position. So our focus is on encouraging
resettlement in third countries and that does happen. Some countries, Germany,
Sweden, have been very generous in that respect but of course it is not going
to remove the very large burden that Lebanon is already bearing. So the emphasis
is on burden sharing and yes, people’s return but return in safety and when
that’s possible. This is the agenda. It is not for me to set the agenda, this
is a matter for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and above all it is a
matter for the Government of Lebanon and we respect the Government of Lebanon
and we work with the Government of Lebanon on this issue like all other issues.
On the Belgians, I would just say they have done well, their mission was mine
clearance specifically and they are about 100 soldiers I think. It is not going
to make, you know contingents come, contingents go. There have been other,
including Europeans, who have come in in the past year or two so it is normal
business frankly.

QUESTION: Is there any fear the Syrian Government returning?

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: Well one of the
reasons I think that Lebanon ought to be able to agree on a President is that this
is a very different situation from the normal one in Lebanon.
I think this is really a situation where there
is no external impediment to the election of a president. It can be done. It is
for the Lebanese really to move forward on this. Of course, you know some of
Lebanon’s friends may have different views but none of that is dispositive. The
answer is in Lebanon.

QUESTION: It is again about the threat of ISIL and UNIFIL. Do
you predict or did you have this discussion with the Security Council on the
possibility that if there is a situation like similar to Syria where civilian
population is threatened in Lebanon, that the rule of engagement, that UNIFIL
could be involved in protecting the people of Lebanon if the Lebanese army is
not able to?

specific mandate which is enshrined in resolution 1701. So it is not something
that could be extended to a different border or for a different purpose without
a request from the Government of Lebanon and a decision by the Security Council
and all the rest of it. I think our focus is very much on supporting and
strengthening the Lebanese army and it is extraordinary what has happened in
the past year. I think I told you when I was here when we were encouraging,
helping, supporting the army as they were putting together their five-year plan
and laid it before the international community as well as the Government or
both and then the response from a number of member States, the response at the
Rome meeting, the extraordinary support from Saudi Arabia now signed, sealed
and about to be delivered. This is really a massive declaration of
international faith and support in Lebanon.

QUESTION: Has Lebanon said at what point they might have to
close their border with Syria?

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: They have taken a decision, a Government decision,
which is not to close the border but actually to look only to the admission of
exceptional humanitarian cases. That’s the decision that they are seeking to
implement at the present moment.

QUESTION: Was it a wise decision?

SCL DEREK PLUMBLY: It is not for me to comment on the Government’s
decisions. It is a decision of the Government of Lebanon.

Thank you very

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