Aoun stresses commitment to 1701
During talks with U.N. coordinator, president rejects Israel’s missile site claims as false
BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun this week underscored Lebanon’s commitment to implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and again rejected Israeli claims about clandestine Hezbollah weapons sites, according to a statement from the presidency.
Aoun met with acting United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel Friday at Baabda Palace, telling her that “Israeli claims of weapons factories and underground depots in several Lebanese areas are false.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in September during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly that Hezbollah was keeping precision missiles in three different sites near Beirut’s airport.
Aoun told Kardel that Netanyahu’s claims had been refuted in early October during a field visit for reporters and foreign diplomats that was organized by caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
“Lebanon is committed to preserving stability along the [southern] border and to implementing Resolution 1701, at a time when Israel continues to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty on land, sea and air,” Aoun said, adding that Israel was careless about respecting international agreements.
Kardel in turn briefed Aoun on an upcoming routine trip to New York to present a report on the implementation of Resolution 1701 before the U.N. Security Council.
The resolution, which was adopted in 2006 to end the war with Israel, states that only troops from UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army are permitted near the Blue Line, the U.N.-demarcated border between Lebanon and its southern neighbor. In doing so, it implicitly prohibits Hezbollah from any sort of military activity in the area.
Kardel reassured the president of the U.N.’s confidence in the current coordination between the Lebanese Army and the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, as well as the “steps being taken to strengthen the capabilities of the Army to carry out its full role.”
Kardel also voiced the U.N.’s appreciation for the care being provided by Lebanon to Syrian refugees in the country.
Aoun reiterated past stances that Lebanon supports the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and noted that the voluntary returns that have been overseen so far by the General Security came at the request of the refugees.
“No information has been provided by [refugees] of obstacles faced after returning, and [Aoun] called on the international community to help secure this return,” the statement from Aoun’s office read.
It was the second time in as many days that Aoun had commented on refugees’ safe return.
The president said Thursday that there was no information indicating Syrian refugees faced “persecution” after returning to Syria.
He made the comments in a tweet that came hours after another group of refugees left Lebanon.
Aoun said in Friday’s statement that “the international community’s assistance to Syrian refugees after they return to their country encourages them to go back.”
The president’s remarks appeared to refer to last week’s claims by caretaker Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merehbi that regime forces had killed around 20 Syrian refugees who returned from Lebanon. “The information received … shows they were killed by a senior official in the Syrian regime’s army,” Merehbi said at the time. –