The head of French intelligence warned senior Lebanese officials at a meeting in Beirut this week that it is in the country’s best interest to rein in its Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, before the United Nations takes steps to do it by force.
Bernard Émié — the Director of France’s General Directorate for External Security, France’s main external intelligence agency — was joined by five other French officials on the secret visit, according to Naharnet, quoting the Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Sources quoted by the newspaper said they believe Émié came to underscore a message delivered a few days earlier by French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian, who reportedly came as a representative of the US, France, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The French envoy reportedly delivered a demand to implement UN Resolution 1701 “and create a buffer zone in south Lebanon between the Litani River and the Blue Line in order to reassure the residents of the northern settlements in occupied Palestine, who fear returning to their settlements due to Hezbollah’s presence on the border,” Al-Akhbar reported.
According to the report, the envoy stressed “the necessity of maintaining calm and preventing the escalation of confrontations” in the south, and quoted unnamed sources who cited “the Western desire to pressure Hezbollah to ‘commit to implementing Resolution 1701’ and not just controlling the rules that governed the southern front in the past before October 7th.
“This comes alongside an international wave that has been pushing for more than a year to amend Resolution 1701 regarding the powers of the Emergency Forces operating in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), and which has now expanded to talk about evacuating border villages,” the newspaper added.
UN Resolution 1701, the ceasefire resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Hezbollah and Israel, categorically prohibits – among other things – the military presence of any non-Lebanon Army entity (read: Hezbollah) in southern Lebanon.
The French intelligence chief warned that either the resolution will be implemented by force, or the language of the resolution will be changed in order to create a 30-kilometer deep demilitarized buffer zone (DMZ) along Lebanon’s border with Israel.
Following Le Drian’s visit, Lebanese Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri claimed that his country is committed to UN Resolution 1701. Lebanon “has been and is still committed to Resolution 1701 and its implementation,” the parliament speaker told Al-Jumhouria newspaper. However, “Israel has violated this resolution thousands of times,” he added.
“No one can impose conditions, amendments or new arrangements on Lebanon, and any step in this direction would be rejected and confronted by us. What’s only needed is for them to implement the resolution and nothing other than that.”