NAQOURA, Lebanon: During a celebration marking the 41st anniversary of UNIFIL Tuesday, the commander of the task force emphasized the importance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and of UNIFIL’s cooperation with the Lebanese Army in maintaining peace on the southern border with Israel.
“UNIFIL is always here to be by your side ... and it is our duty to protect civilians, ensure stability and support the Lebanese Army, just like Resolution 1701 states,” Maj. Gen. Stefano del Col told those gathered, including Brig. Gen. Roger Helou, who attended on behalf of Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.
UNIFIL was established in 1978 to confirm that Israeli forces withdrew from south Lebanon, restore peace and assist the Lebanese government in regaining authority in the area.
According to Resolution 1701, which ended the July 2006 war with Israel, no armed forces besides the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL should be present south of the Litani River.
It also emphasizes the importance of the Lebanese government maintaining full control of its territories, and full respect of the Blue Line that demarcates Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon.
The comments follow a report released by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in which, according to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, he expressed “grave concern” that Hezbollah’s weapons could destabilize Lebanon and the region.
Guterres called on the Lebanese government to take all necessary action to “disarm all militias” in accordance with international laws.
He also requested the government conform to Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from regional conflicts.
The U.N. officials’ comments come as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to visit Beirut, his first trip to Lebanon as secretary of state, as part of a regional tour that will also take him to Israel and Kuwait from March 19 through March 23.
In Beirut, the State Department said, Pompeo will meet with Lebanese leaders to discuss the “political, security, economic, and humanitarian challenges facing Lebanon,” and underscore his country’s support for the Lebanese people and “legitimate state institutions.”