LEBANON : Daily Press Briefing
(...) There are four main objectives to be pursued on the diplomatic front:
The first objective is consolidation of the cease-fire through a balanced implementation of UNSCR 1701. The cessation of hostilities, as you know, is respected for the most part. Yesterday’s lifting of the air blockade by Israel was an important milestone in the application of UNSCR 1701. If you like we can come back to the question of the sea blockade in a minute and the maritime surveillance that France is ready to assume starting as early as today.
There also needs to be progress on the other aspects of UNSCR 1701: continuation of the deployment of Lebanese troops and UNIFIL in the south, withdrawal of Israeli troops south of the Blue Line, establishment of an embargo on arms to the militias. France responded quickly to the United Nations requests. Jean-François Bureau [Defense Ministry spokesman] will brief you on the deployment of our forces in Lebanon. There’s another contribution which is important and can be seen today—the installation of metal bridges. As you know, France has provided six metal bridges which are being installed by our engineering teams. Just today Mr. Perben is inaugurating in Lebanon the first of these bridges, and obviously it’s very important to rebuild infrastructure and road communications.
The second diplomatic objective is the reconstruction of Lebanon. We’ve had this conference in Stockholm which ended August 31 and was a success. France announced a contribution of 40 million euros.
Beyond that, we’re already considering, with the Lebanese authorities, a conference on the medium- and long-term which could be held in Beirut or Paris, as the minister proposed. The prime minister has asked chief financial inspector Jean-Pierre Jouyet to head an interministerial mission on this question. He is currently in Lebanon.
The third objective is to move towards a sustainable political solution. The various parameters, which for the most part reflect the seven points in the Siniora Plan, appear in UNSCR 1701. Achieving this objective requires the affirmation of the Lebanese government which must regain a monopoly on the use of force. It also requires the militias to be disarmed, as provided for in UNSCR 1559, which must take place in the context of a dialogue among Lebanese and also progress concerning the question of prisoners and Shebaa Farms.
We are waiting for the UN secretary general’s report which he is to send to the Security Council. This was requested in resolution 1701. The report should normally be forwarded 30 days after the adoption of the resolution, i.e. September 11. The UN secretary-general will make his report in light of his contacts in the region. An initial debate is due to be held in the Security Council September 15 on the implementation of the resolution and the prospects for the future.
The fourth objective, which goes beyond Lebanon, is the emergence of a comprehensive solution in the Middle East since we know that there is a link between the stabilization of the situation in Lebanon and the regional environment. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question is essential in this respect. Various initiatives have been aired, in particular by the Arab League and Egypt. President Chirac has called for an early meeting of the Quartet. It is obviously one of the questions that will be discussed in the corridors of the UN General Assembly.
Q - There have been constant and systematic violations of Lebanese territory and Lebanese waters by Israeli planes. What mandate does UNIFIL have if Israel continues this practice?
The mandate of the force has been defined very clearly in resolution 1701, specifically in paragraph 12 of this resolution which gives it a robust mandate. As you know, we sought guarantees through the concept of the operation and rules of engagement so that the mandate can be discharged in the best possible conditions. We also made a point of ensuring that the chain of command is short and efficient.
Q - Israel announced it would lift the sea blockade within 48 hours. What precisely are the assets France is deploying to monitor the coastline?
We were waiting for official confirmation of this request by the UN secretary-general. The official confirmation reached us last night.
It’s a request to provide assistance to UNIFIL, on a provisional basis, to help it ensure the task of monitoring Lebanon’s coastline until the UNIFIL naval task force is definitively in place.
The request was made in the context of article 13 of resolution 1701 which authorizes the UN secretary-general to request, if necessary, the assistance of certain states in a national capacity to aid UNIFIL.
In accordance with the agreement in principle given by President Chirac to Kofi Annan, we responded favorably to the latter’s request.
We conceive of this participation as provisional support to the Lebanese Navy to help it monitor its coastlines pending the definitive implementation of the naval component of UNIFIL Our German partners have said they are willing subsequently to take over and ensure command of the UNIFIL naval task force.
The French force will consist of two frigates, Cassard and Montcalm, and their helicopters which are already in the area and a landing craft transport. The group is ready to be deployed in Lebanese territorial waters within the zone of six to 12 nautical miles as early as today. It was decided, in agreement with the United Nations, that France and its partners should operate under national command and in close liaison with the Lebanese authorities.
The deployment should lead to the lifting of the blockade.
(...) The idea, as we’ve said very clearly, is that it’s temporary. The Germans reaffirmed their readiness to take command of the UNIFIL naval task force. Once they’re in a position to do so—and we think it’s a matter of two to three weeks—the temporary arrangement ceases. Which doesn’t mean that the Baliste task force won’t stay in the area, but in any case this specific mission is to end. / .