NEW YORK, AUGUST 30 – The UN Security Council today unanimously renewed for one year the UN peacekeeping mission UNIFIL, which patrols Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, a day before its mandate expired on August 31.
Lebanon had called for the peacekeeping force’s mandate to be renewed without changes after the United States accused its commander of being “blind” to the flow of weapons to Iran-backed Hezbollah. The draft voted today was put in blue last night following several days of difficult negotiations and bilateral discussions. Israel and the US were pressing for improvements to the force to combat what they say is the spread of illegal arms to the region, which is dominated by the Shi’a group. Troop-contributors France and Italy, as well as Egypt and others, raised concerns that this would threaten the fragile calm in southern Lebanon
“Italy voted in favour of this resolution to reiterate its firm and unwavering support to a peacekeeping mission that, in a region plagued by conflicts and divisions, contributes to maintaining calm and stability for both Lebanon and Israel to enjoy”, the Italian Permanent representative to the UN Sebastiano Cardi said once the resolution was adopted. The Ambassador stressed that, with over 1,000 men and women in uniform, Italy is proud to be a member of UNIFIL, “a mission whose excellent performance is due to the quality, dedication and bravery of the troops provided by 41 troop-contributing countries”.
Cardi said that Italy understand fully the security concerns relating to the presence of non-authorized weapons in the area of operation and to other violations of resolution 1701 by Hezbollah. “However, we strongly caution against blurring the line between duties that, according to resolution 1701, are up to the Government of Lebanon and those that the peacekeepers are tasked with. The responsibilities are very different, and the primary role of the sovereign Government of Lebanon needs to be stressed. Promoting confusion in that regard undermines UNIFIL’s operations and strips the Lebanese authorities of their own sovereign prerogatives”.
The Ambassador took note that today this Council has followed its long tradition of unity and consensus on UNIFIL. “However, I would like to underline our remaining concerns with regard to the language of OP15, which we have accepted, at the last minute, to avoid a division of this Council and to keep its unity, and also because we are a responsible component of the peacekeeping mission, being its largest troop contributor with Indonesia”. In that respect Italy, as troop contributor, reserves the right to assess the measures that the Secretary-General may envisage according to OP15, which, anyway, “is not changing the existing mandate of UNIFIL”.
First launched in 1978, UNIFIL was expanded after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah so that peacekeepers could deploy along the border to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into the south. Italy has provided three of its five commanders so far: Claudio Graziano, Paolo Serra and Luciano Portolano. (@OnuItalia)