UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra said on Monday that the peacekeepers were able to successfully achieve some key mandated objectives but stressed challenges remain.
“In the period ahead, my focus will be to assist the parties to maintain and solidify the cessation of hostilities and respect (Security Council) resolution 1701,” Serra said at a ceremony at the mission headquarters in Naqoura to observe the 34th anniversary of the peacekeepers’ presence in southern Lebanon.
He also vowed to “work closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces, the government of Lebanon and relevant Lebanese institutions towards our common objectives and, to this end, mobilize joint efforts amongst the United Nations family to support initiatives within the scope of our mandate and area of operations.”
The UNIFIL commander expressed appreciation to the Lebanese army that he said continues to be an “excellent partner” in the performance of the mission’s duties.
“UNIFIL remains committed to make progress on the strategic dialogue with a view to gradually enhancing the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces in the UNIFIL area of operations,” he said.
Representatives from the Lebanese army, security forces, local authorities, community officials, as well as members of the international community attended the ceremony.
Peacekeepers representing the 37 different national contingents that make up UNIFIL were also present.
Serra and Brig.-Gen. Ghassan Salem, representing the Lebanese army commander, laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph in memory of fallen peacekeepers.
UNIFIL was created by U.N. Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 in 1978. Following the July 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, resolution 1701 enhanced the force.
UNIFIL currently comprises around 12,000 troops, supported by about 1,000 civilian international and local staff. This includes about 900 naval personnel of the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force deployed along the Lebanese coast.
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