BEIRUT: The UN Security Council is very concerned about Lebanon because it has a strategic role in the region, UN Special Coordinator in Lebanon Joanna Wronecka said on Monday.
She made the remarks during a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Wronecka also said the UNSC’s position on Lebanon was unified, highlighting the need for the country’s early election of a president and implementing reforms.
Wronecka said she emphasized those points in her recent speech before the council in New York last week.
She also stressed the need to adhere to Resolution 1701 and implement it on the ground.
Wronecka met the Lebanese leaders a year and two months on from the presidency becoming vacant.
On Jan. 10 the position of army commander will also become vacant — as regional tensions ramp up with Israel — in addition to the vacant governorship of the Central Bank since last August, which has been filled temporarily.
The caretaker government has failed multiple times in recent weeks to make a decision regarding the expected vacancies in the army leadership, whether it be extending, appointing, or delaying retirements.
French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian is scheduled to arrive in Beirut on Wednesday, amid growing concerns about the developments in the region.
It is rumored that the purpose of the visit is to address the stalled issue of the presidency.
The leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, expressed his concern on Monday that the French envoy’s goal might be to exchange the implementation of Resolution 1701 by Hezbollah and its military withdrawal from southern Lebanon — in return for giving the party the presidency of Lebanon.
Geagea said that the presidency is not for exchange or bargaining over.
On Monday, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahhi reiterated the need to expedite the election of a president and find ways to protect the military.
The three vacant positions are from the Maronite community’s share of power in Lebanon.
On Monday he was quoted as being open to all possibilities that serve the interest of the military, except for appointing a new commander, as this should happen in the presence of the president, who is the supreme commander of the Armed Forces under the constitution.
As per the defense law, the chief of staff is the only one capable of assuming the duties of the army commander in his absence. But this position has also been vacant for over a year.
The Military Council — led by Defense Minister Maurice Slim — is also suffering from vacancies in the positions of the army’s inspector general and the general manager of administration.
The caretaker government is not authorized to make these appointments. A legitimate government needs to be formed to elect a president.
It also means that the Supreme Defense Council, which includes the prime minister, is also inactive due to the absence of a president.
Only the president has the right to convene the council and preside over its sessions according to Article 49 of the constitution.
According to one political observer, the Maronite patriarch insists on keeping the current commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun, in his position until a president is elected, as his leadership “cannot be exercised collectively through the council of ministers.”
Al-Rahi accused politicians in his Sunday sermon of deliberately not electing a president.
He said the highly delicate regional conditions required state protection, and the winds headed toward regional arrangements.
“We do not accept that the president's election be subject to a person, a project, or a goal related to influence, and we do not accept depriving the state of its head.
“We do not accept attempts to undermine the army’s unity, stability, self-confidence, and leadership, especially since the country and its security are on the verge of a volcano eruption.”
The Free Patriotic Movement proposes appointing a new commander through a decree between ministers, while the Lebanese Forces party proposes extending the current commander’s term.
There is also a proposal to delay his retirement by the speaker, the Progressive Socialist Party, and Sunni deputies through a government decree that includes extending the term of the General Director of Internal Security Forces Brig. Gen. Imad Osman, who will also be retired, and appointing a military council.
The deadline given by Berri to the government to resolve the ongoing crisis will end in two days.
Slim, of the Free Patriotic Movement, can propose an extension to the army commander’s tenure.
If he refuses to do so by absenting himself from the government session, parliament will be approached.
However, Berri has refused to invite the divided house to a session to approve the extension for Gen. Aoun for another year.
The political observer said the Free Patriotic Movement “will consider any decision made by the defense minister of defense invalid and will challenge it legally.
“The defense minister will refuse to work with the extended commander without his approval, which means the military institution will be involved in a crisis and consequently paralyzed.”