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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08BEIRUT1498 2008-10-20 15:24:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beirut
Cable title:  

LEBANON: UNIFIL COMMANDER ASKS FOR HELP IN

Tags:   PREL PGOV PTER PINR UNSC MARR MOPS IS SY LE 
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1. (C) Force Commander General Claudio Graziano, speaking on
October 9 at a regular United Nations Interim Force in
Lebanon (UNIFIL) mission update briefing to the diplomatic
corps, described the withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces
(IDF) from northern Ghajar as a critical step towards
successful implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701 and said he
took full responsibility for the process. Because he
believed the withdrawal is tied to UNIFIL's future success,
he commented, "It must not fail."



2. (C) Graziano also said UNSC Resolution 1701 entailed more
than the deployment of UNIFIL, and achieving a permanent
cease fire and long-term solution ultimately depends on a
political solution. He described his area of operations
(the area south of the Litani River) as "calm," highlighted
good relations with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and
claimed there were no breaches of the cessation of
hostilities in and "no evidence of attempts to smuggle
weapons" into his operating area. End summary.

UNIFIL SEEKING RESOLUTION ON GHAJAR


--------------------------





3. (C) UNIFIL Force Commander General Claudio Graziano and
his staff on October 9 briefed invited diplomatic
representatives, including PolMilOff, on recent developments.
Graziano's new Chief of Staff, French Brigadier General
Oliver de Bavinchove, opened the briefing with an
organizational update highlighting the recent departure of a
3,000 soldier LAF brigade to north Lebanon. This departure
leaves only three LAF brigades in the area of operations.
Additionally, he said, of the originally mandated 12,000
troops for UNIFIL, it was still short 3,000 soldiers. In his
overview of operations, de Bavinchove said the area was
"unstable," IDF air violations continued as a source of
tension, and drug smuggling was still prevalent. The UNIFIL
maritime force was becoming extremely expensive to support
and its ability to conduct at-sea interdictions and
inspections was under-utilized, he added.



4. (C) De Bavinchove, noting the lack of rapid progress on
issues such as border demarcation, called for patience in
implementing UNSC Resolution 1701, joking that, "It will take
200 years to mark the Blue Line." He warned that there must
be positive, noticeable steps forward by the end of 2009 or
support from donor nations for UNIFIL could begin to erode.
There was a growing perception that UNIFIL was too passive
and a scapegoat for non-action, and that only progress on the
issues, such as a successful handover of northern Ghajar,
would alleviate those perceptions.



5. (C) The UNIFIL briefers also presented the current
seven-point UNIFIL proposal for IDF withdrawal from northern
Ghajar. Graziano later commented that UNIFIL would take full
responsibility for the implementation of the Ghajar
agreement, which he believed would lead to further successes
under 1701. De Bavinchove told PolMilOff after the formal
presentation that he believed all parties had a strong desire
to conclude an agreement, especially Israel, as Ghajar was a
"drug smugglers nest" and a burden to Israel. (Note: A
Lebanese press report on October 11 stated the Israeli Army
leadership reportedly had told UNIFIL command that Israeli
withdrawal could start before the end of October. Another
report from pro-Syrian As-Safir newspaper stated the
withdrawal will be set once a new Israeli government is
formed. End note.)



6. (C) The UNIFIL proposal calls for a complete IDF
withdrawal from northern Ghajar and its surrounding area
labeled by UNIFIL as 14B. (Note: Area 14B is uninhabited
farmland to the immediate south and east of the town limits,
consisting of small farming plots and small buildings. End
note.) UNIFIL will verify the withdrawal of the IDF.
Afterwards, only UNIFIL will have access to area 14B. The

BEIRUT 00001498 002 OF 002


LAF will be permitted one observer located with UNIFIL, but
no other LAF personnel will deploy in the area. UNIFIL will
determine the timing of the handover of northern Ghajar to
the LAF, while maintaining responsibility for area 14B.
UNIFIL representatives described the proposal as a "skeleton
agreement" due to the many issues to be resolved once the
withdrawal takes place, such as the disposition of the
Israeli citizens in northern Ghajar. They noted that the
UNIFIL objectives are to implement 1701, reduce tensions
amongst all parties, and increase confidence in diplomatic
efforts to maintain stability.

UNIFIL COMMANDER CALLS FOR SUPPORT


--------------------------





7. (C) Graziano concluded the briefing with his assessment of
UNIFIL accomplishments: UNIFIL cooperation with the LAF and
IDF was good, there were (despite allegations to the
contrary) no breaches of the cessation of hostilities, and
there was no evidence of attempts to smuggle weapons into
UNIFIL's area of operations. Graziano did note, however,
that there had been two rocket attacks against Israel from
UNIFIL's area of operations in the last 15 months and three
attacks against UNIFIL on its main supply routes.



8. (C) Graziano also appealed for more support at "the
political and strategic level." He said the work on northern
Ghajar was critical and requested international backing and
promotion of UNIFIL's proposal. Additionally, he asked for
more logistical assistance for the LAF. In the near-term,
facilitating the withdrawal of the IDF from northern Ghajar
was paramount. He also mentioned plans to focus UNIFIL
capabilities on Blue Line demarcation and strengthening the
security of the area. Relations with the local population
would continue to be a priority, he said, citing 1701's
specific provisions for the protection of civilians.
SISON