Russia threatened to veto UNIFIL mandate if Hezbollah mentioned — report

Moscow said to refuse to back renewal of UN peacekeeper force mandate in Lebanon until text removed references to terror group’s violations

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)
A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Russia reportedly threatened to use its veto at the United Nations last week if the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah, its ally in the Syrian civil war, was named in a Security Council resolution to renew the mandate of peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon.

The US and Israel wanted the text of the resolution to state that the UN’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would have a bigger presence south of the Litani River and would have full authority in its efforts to prevent violations of UN Resolution 1701, which brought the 34-day Second Lebanon War to an end in August 2006.

That war was sparked by a cross-border raid into Israel by Hezbollah, in which three IDF soldiers were killed and two — Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — were captured. Five more IDF soldiers were killed a short while later in a failed Israeli rescue attempt and by the end of the war, 165 Israelis and 1,100 Lebanese had been killed.

During last week’s talks on renewing UNIFIL’s mandate, Russia opposed the inclusion of any reference to Hezbollah as being behind illicit military activity in southern Lebanon that violated Resolution 1701, the Haaretz daily newspaper reported.

United Nations Security Council meeting, April 20, 2017. (UN/Rick Bajornas)

The newspaper quoted two Israeli officials saying that Russian diplomats threatened to exercise their veto if the new resolution so much as mentioned the terror organization.

As a result, several portions of text backed by Israel and the US were excised.

One of the paragraphs deleted from the draft referred to a Hezbollah press tour in the spring conducted along the Israeli border in contravention of Resolution 1701.

“The Russians watched from the side and their red line was that they would not consent to Hezbollah being named in the resolution,” according to a classified cable sent by Israel’s UN mission to the Foreign Ministry on Friday, the paper said.

Russia, Hezbollah, and Iran, have been backing Syrian President Bashar Assad and fighting anti-Assad rebels and the Islamic State in the Syrian civil war.

Fighters from the Hezbollah terror group are seen at a rally marking the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon on August 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

Hezbollah’s activity in Syria and Lebanon was among the topics addressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi just four days ago.

Netanyahu expressed concern that Hezbollah was receiving sophisticated weapons, some of them Russian made, from Iran and Syria.

Israel was striving to limit what it sees as Iran’s attempts to forge a land corridor from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon, where its ally Hezbollah operates.


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