BEIRUT, APRIL 4 – Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti met top Lebanese authorities in Beirut and then paid a visit to UNIFIL’s Italian contingent, deployed in South Lebanon under the aegis of the UN.
“Italy and Lebanon are united by a strong friendship, a deep-seated and stable relationship, which is crucial for overall stability.” remarked Pinotti during her meeting with President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, in Beirut. Accompanied by Defense Chief of Staff, General Claudio Graziano, Minister Pinotti also met Parliament President Nabiih Berri and Minister of Defense Yacoub Sarraf.
Talks focused on Lebanon’s security issues and on the new threats to international peace and stability. A shared will to advance bilateral cooperation with respect to defense, and other sectors, emerged among the participants who acknowledged that Lebanon is an important bulwark against the spread of instability, but remains vulnerable, also due to its efforts in hosting high numbers of refugees, mostly from Syria. Italy is an important contributor to the common goal of regional stability as part of the UNIFIL mission, to which it currently participates with a contingent of approximately 1100 soldiers (mostly from the Brigata Pozzuolo del Friuli Brigade).
In the afternoon, Minister Pinotti met the men and women of the mission in Shama, at UNIFIL’s Sector West Headquarters, where General Ugo Cillo illustrated the tasks carried out by the Italian contingent. “Thank you for your work, you contribute in advancing Italy’s prestige in the world”, said Pinotti, praising the ability of the Italian Armed Forces to operate while establishing close relationships. The ability “ to develop excellent relationships with those you interact with”, she said, is an essential element for the best possible outcome in peacekeeping missions.
Among the various duties assigned to the Italian blue helmets by UN resolution 1701, is to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces, whose command was recently assigned to General Joseph Aoun.
Italian and Lebanese Armed Forces have developed a strong relationship during their joint activities that range from training sessions to assistance in monitoring the Blue Line and the territories of South Lebanon. UNIFIL invests such military functions with a delicate “political” role thanks to consultations and coordination between the mission Commander and the high ranking officers of the Israeli and Lebanese Armed Forces (three-way mechanism).
In recognition of the important work carried out by Italian military personnel, Lebanese Defense Chief of Staff General Aoun thanked General Graziano, especially for providing training to the Lebanese Army as part of the Mibil (Italian bilateral military mission in Lebanon) which has been in place since January 2015.