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Lebanon

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment has been made of the (a) scale and (b) nature of arms transfers from (i) Syria and (ii) Iran to Lebanese-based militias; and if she will make a statement. (88127)

We are very concerned about the role of Syria and Iran. Iran supplies Hezbollah with financing and weapons and has personnel in Lebanon assisting Hezbollah. As well as supplying arms to Hezbollah, Syria also facilitates the supply of arms and finance from Iran to Hezbollah. For reasons of operational sensitivity it would be inappropriate to comment in more detail.

Through their support for Hezbollah, Iran and Syria are encouraging extremism, threatening the stability of the region and putting peace in the Middle East further out of reach.

We call on Syria and Iran to stop their support for Hezbollah and end their interference in Lebanese internal affairs in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with her Lebanese counterpart on the disarmament of armed militias in Lebanon; what the outcome of those discussions was; and what assessment she has made of the prospects for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. (93215)

I myself have held no discussions with my Lebanese counterpart on the disarmament of militias in Lebanon. However, during his visit to Lebanon in September, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister held discussions with the Prime Minister of Lebanon and other interlocutors about the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, which includes the disarmament of militias in Lebanon. The result of those discussions was a joint agreement, spelled out at the joint press conference that the Prime Minister gave at the time with Prime Minister Siniora, for the UK to support the Lebanese armed forces with equipment and training, so that they can extend their authority throughout the whole of Lebanon. Both the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel have endorsed UNSCR 1701 and the UK remains committed to its full implementation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the Lebanese Government’s request to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to broker a ceasefire; and if she will make a statement. (87554)

The Government worked hard with key partners, including the Government of Lebanon, to secure UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, adopted unanimously by the Security Council on 11 August 2006, which called for a full cessation of hostilities. The ceasefire came into effect three days later. Since then the ceasefire has largely held. We are now focused on humanitarian and reconstruction efforts and enhancing the Government of Lebanon’s ability to take full control of their territory, a requirement of both UNSCR’s 1559 and 1701.

Urgent work has been undertaken to strengthen the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in order to carry out the range of important new tasks set out in UNSCR 1701. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have withdrawn their troops from South Lebanon except from the general area of Ghajar north of the Blue Line which is still under IDF control. UNIFIL is in close contact with the IDF to facilitate a speedy withdrawal from the area of Ghajar. The Lebanese armed forces have deployed along the Blue Line except from the general area of Ghajar.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what humanitarian support the UK plans to offer to Lebanon. (87557)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government have allocated £22.3 million (around US $40 million) for humanitarian relief in Lebanon, including the UK's share of the European Union's humanitarian spending and the US $5 million drawn from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. Working through international partners and non-governmental organisations, the Department for International Development (DFID) has provided emergency shelter, health care, water and sanitation and munitions clearance and built temporary bridges to allow humanitarian access.

Fortunately the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon is now subsiding. This may allow some saving in the UK funding allocation, which may be used to support longer term reconstruction work.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the ability of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to help civilians threatened by the current hostilities within its area of operations. (87559)

Under its previous mandate UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was limited in terms of the assistance it could provide to civilians. UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 of 11 August explicitly mandates UNIFIL for humanitarian activities. The ceasefire which followed UNSCR 1701 has largely held. Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have withdrawn from Lebanon except from the general area of Ghajar. The Lebanese armed forces (LAP) and UNIFIL have deployed along the Blue Line and recently met with the IDF to finalise the IDF withdrawal from the area of Ghajar. We fully support UNIFIL’s expanded role and reinforced mandate. The force is making, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to the humanitarian effort in southern Lebanon.

As the UN Secretary-General said in his report on the implementation of UNSCR 1701 on 18 August:

“A reinforced UNIFIL, as called for in paragraph 11 of resolution 1701 (2006), is a vital part of the package to enable the full deployment of the LAP to the south and, in parallel, the full withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Lebanon; monitor compliance with the cessation of hostilities; help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons; and establish conditions conducive to concluding a permanent ceasefire agreement and help to implement it. In meeting those and related objectives outlined in resolution 1701 (2006), UNIFIL would be making an essential contribution to enable the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority over all of its territory.”

Details of UNIFIL’s reinforced mandate are available on the UN website at: http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/unifil/.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her assessment is of progress made in efforts to secure agreements in principle from the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel to the principles and elements for a long-term solution as set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. (93194)

Both the Government of Israel and the Government of Lebanon have endorsed UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701. In accordance with the resolution, Israel has now completed its withdrawal from Lebanon with the exception of the divided village of Ghajar and Lebanon has deployed its armed forces in the south of the country for the first time in many years. The UK remains committed to implementing UNSCR 1701. We have held extensive discussions with both the Israelis and the Lebanese about this issue, including during my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Israel and Lebanon in September.