UNIFIL held a ceremony at its headquarters in Naqoura today to officially transfer authority from outgoing Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col of Italy to Major General Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz of Spain.
Before handing over command, Major General Del Col applauded the cooperation of the parties for working with him and demonstrating their commitment and collaboration, which has helped maintain “the remarkable stability” in south Lebanon over the past 16 years.
“UNIFIL has provided, and continues to provide, a window of opportunity to work toward a long-term solution, but we are not the substitute for a political long-term solution,” said the outgoing mission head. “Moving forward and leaving the past behind is of paramount importance for both countries. Peace is possible, but courage, commitment and progress are necessary to proceed in this direction.”
The ceremony was attended by high-level representatives of the Government of Lebanon, including Minister of National Defence Maurice Sleem representing Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Member of Parliament Dr. Inaya Ezzeddine representing Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun. Also in attendance were members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Lebanon, local municipal leaders, religious leaders and fellow peacekeepers.
High-level government delegations from Spain, led by Minister of Defence Margarita Robles Fernández, and from Italy, led by the Under Secretary of State for Defence Stefania Pucciarelli, also attended today’s ceremony.
In his remarks, the incoming UNIFIL head, Maj. Gen. Lázaro, said he will endeavour to ensure that the cessation of hostilities is sustained, as well as to foster the respect of the Blue Line by both parties.
“I will resort to the liaison and coordination arrangements, including the Tripartite Mechanisms, if any incident occurs, to facilitate coordination and de-escalate tensions and restore calm in the area,” he said. He added that continuing the current pace of coordinated activities between UNIFIL and the LAF will help maintain the stability in the UNIFIL area of operations and along the Blue Line and extend and sustain the authority of the Government of Lebanon in the area.
“This could be a major step forward to set the conditions for a political and diplomatic solution,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Lázaro has had a long and distinguished career in the Spanish Army since 1986, when he was commissioned as Lieutenant (infantry). He has held multiple command positions, from platoon leader to Infantry Brigade Commander. He also has extensive international experience, including assignments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (with the UN Protection Force), NATO Stabilization Force and the European Union Rapid Operational Force.
He has previously served with UNIFIL three times, as Sector East Liaison Officer at UNIFIL Headquarters in 2011, as Chief of Staff of Sector East in 2013 and, as Sector East Commander in 2016.