NEW YORK, AUGUST 28 – UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Stefano Del Col welcomed the unanimous adoption of resolution 2539 extending UNIFIL’s mandate for a year. “The U.N. Security Council’s unanimous support strenghtens our resolve to pursue mandated tasks with renewed vigor together with the parties”, the Italian general said on Twitter after Friday’s vote.
The Council extended and expanded the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon but reduced from 15,000 down to 13,000 the maximum number of troops deployed at any given time. The French-drafted resolution included language to address U.S. and Israeli concerns about activities of the militant group Hezbollah in the area.
In another concession to the Trump administration and close ally Israel, the resolution calls on the Lebanese government to facilitate “prompt and full access” to sites requested by U.N. peacekeepers for investigation, including tunnels crossing the U.N.-drawn Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel. And it urges freedom of movement and unimpeded access for peacekeepers to all parts of the Blue Line, condemning “in the strongest terms” all attempts to restrict U.N. troop movements and attacks on mission personnel.
In practical terms the troops reduction will not have any impact: about 10,250 peacekeepers (among them about 1,000 Italian) are currently deployed along the Blue Line.
The resolution gives the United States a symbolic victory, but it was welcomed by many countries that view UNIFIL as critical to maintaining peace in the volatile region and strongly support its current mandate which is largely maintained for another year.
“Today we halt a long period of Council complacency on UNIFIL and the growing and destabilizing influence of Iran and its client, the terrorist organization Hezbollah,” U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement after the vote. “The Trump Administration is deeply concerned these last years about UNIFIL’s overall inability to contain the Hezbollah menace. We are not going to allow this to stand,” she said. “The Council must join us in confronting this.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 15 members of the Council voted by email. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote to the council on July 29 recommending a 12-month renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, stressing the importance of maintaining high troop strength. (@OnuItalia)