Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Lebanon

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 19, 2018

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, for your briefing today.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen images and news of tunnels discovered in northern Israel. As the Under-Secretary-General has told us this morning, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon has confirmed so far the existence of four tunnels close to the Blue Line and to date has independently verified two of these tunnels cross the Blue Line. UNIFIL has also determined that two of those tunnels constitute violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. We can only speculate how many more will be uncovered in the coming days and weeks.

These facts are indisputable, and they should leave no doubt as to who is responsible. The United States has taken Hezbollah’s threats to the security of Israel and the Israeli people at face value, and it is high time that this Council and the international community do so as well.

This Council’s differing views on Hezbollah have undermined the international community’s efforts to support peace and stability along the Blue Line and between Israel and Lebanon.

UNIFIL and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon play a critical role in assuring that peace and stability. We call upon them to proactively implement their respective mandates to advance efforts toward a durable peace between Israel and Lebanon.

It is both regrettable and incomprehensible that some Council members dismiss the threat Hezbollah poses and its ability to act as a spoiler to this Council’s broader objective for peace between Israel and Lebanon.

It is time that this Security Council acts as one and speaks in one voice. Hezbollah is a serious and a real threat. This reality must underpin all of our actions moving forward from today.

To those who are not yet convinced that Hezbollah is a serious threat to the peace and security of Israel, of Lebanon, and of the region, I ask you this: what further proof do you need? Did we forget the violence in 2006? Do we not hear Nasrallah bragging of his vast stocks of “precise” weapons and his ability to hit anywhere inside Israel?

We appreciate that Israel and Lebanon expressed to UNIFIL that they have no intention to escalate the situation along the Blue Line and will continue to work with UNIFIL to this end. We urge both partners to continue to exercise restraint and to utilize fully UNIFIL’s liaison capabilities. UNIFIL must be in a position to exercise its mandate to the fullest extent possible.

But can we know with certainty that Hezbollah is equally committed to maintaining peace and stability? This answer is no, we cannot.

The United States strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its sovereignty and unconditionally affirms Israel’s right to self-defense.

We call on President Michel Aoun and the Lebanese government to undertake all possible efforts to halt Hezbollah’s illicit tunneling into Israel and to ensure that there is no escalation of tensions or violence.

This includes President Aoun directing the Lebanese Armed Forces to act promptly to investigate the suspected starting points of the tunnels.

We also call upon UNIFIL to take all necessary measures to ensure that its area of operations is not used for hostile activities and to ensure that these tunnels do not pose a threat to peace and security. UNIFIL must be provided all possible relevant information regarding, and full access to, the suspected tunnel locations in southern Lebanon if it is to complete its independent assessment.

The United States strongly supports the Lebanese Armed Forces as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon. We continue to work with others in the international community to provide assistance to the LAF to allow it to perform its mission as effectively as possible.

More broadly, we also call on Iran and its agents to stop their aggressive behavior and provocation in the region, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.

We thank UNIFIL for the constructive liaison role the mission has played between the Governments of Lebanon and Israel in order to facilitate clear communication, preserve stability along the Blue Line, and document these incidents.

However, we urge the mission to continue its heightened security posture and visible presence in southern Lebanon and to actively and regularly update the Security Council on this very serious and ongoing issue.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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