Marking the 43rdanniversary of UNIFIL’s establishment, Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col reiterated that UNIFIL remains as committed as ever to peace and stability in south Lebanon.
Speaking during a pared-down, COVID-compliant ceremony in the Mission headquarters in Naqoura, Major General Del Col confirmed that despite new and evolving challenges, including the unprecedented combination of socio-economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, UNIFIL continued to deliver on all aspects of its mandate.
“Our essential duties have never stopped,” he told the ceremony, attended by UNIFIL personnel as well as representatives of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and local mayors. “We are here for as long as it takes.”
Moving on to the situation along the 120-kilometre Blue Line, the UNIFIL head noted that UN peacekeepers have been able to work with the parties to resolve incidents before they could escalate into conflict. He also called for the parties’ constructive engagements in completing the visible marking of the Line.
“As always, we will work towards our goal of a cessation of hostilities and a sustainable peace in south Lebanon. An important and practical part of this is to complete the marking of the Blue Line,” he continued. “Marking the remaining parts of the Blue Line will help avoid accidental and unnecessary provocations that could escalate into conflict.”
The marking of the Blue Line, established by the UN in 2000, started seven years later. So far, 272 markers have been installed, showing the precise path of the Line.
In the past, both sides have set aside their very real differences to engage constructively on this issue.
“It is now time to finish the job,” said Major General Del Col. “I’m calling on both parties to re-engage on marking the Blue Line, building on that past success and the recent framework agreement.”
During today’s ceremony, the UNIFIL Force Commander also paid tribute to the 321 peacekeeping colleagues who lost their lives on duty, serving the cause of peace in south Lebanon since 1978.
Also today, a total of 28 peacekeepers were awarded UN medals for their service in furthering peace in south Lebanon.