Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on Friday visited the newly deployed Irish Battalion in south Lebanon at the start of its mission as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force.
“The contributions of Irish peacekeepers to UNIFIL go back to 1978, as old as UNIFIL. They have lost brave soldiers in the service of peace in this dear land. I am proud to have you here,” Asarta told the Irish peacekeepers.
Asarta and the Commanding Officer of the Irish Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Bolger, reviewed an Honor Guard. Then they inspected the troops, equipment and the base, Camp Shamrock.
“The deployment of the Irish battalion brings to 35 the number of countries contributing to UNIFIL. This is in itself a testament of the confidence the international community puts in this peacekeeping force and the world’s continuous interest in providing all the required assistance to ensure that south Lebanon remains peaceful and stable,” Asarta added.
“As we welcome our 437 Irish Army comrades, I want to stress that this deployment provides impetus for UNIFIL as it pursues its mission for peace in south Lebanon. This deployment of Irish peacekeepers adds more vigor to our mission,” he went on to say.
Ireland was one of the first contributors to UNIFIL, providing troops since its onset. The troops were withdrawn in 2001 and returned in 2007-2008 before being withdrawn again. Irish officers, however, continued to serve at UNIFIL Headquarters in the southern city of Naqoura.
"It is of vital importance that we work in close cooperation and coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces for the implementation of UNIFIL's mandate and to maintain peace and security in the south," said Lieutenant-Colonel Bolger.
Irish peacekeepers on Wednesday remembered fallen comrades in a ceremony at Camp Shamrock.
With the Irish deployment, UNIFIL currently numbers about 12,100 troops from 35 countries and about 1,000 Lebanese and international civilian staff members.
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