As 2020 came to an end, the head of mission and force commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, General Stefano Del Col, sent out a message to the Lebanese public on New Year’s eve.
He thanked everyone as well as UNIFIL troop-contributing countries and the UN Security Council for ensuring that UNIFIL was able to carry out its mandate and preserve the continued stability that, according to him, has been witnessed in southern Lebanon since 2006.
“In 2020, we saw occasional yet serious tensions across the Blue Line, along with heated rhetoric in both Lebanon and Israel,” Gen. Del Col wrote. “The presence of more than 11,000 civilian and military peacekeepers is a deterrent to a resumption of conflict and a factor of stability for the country.”
He noted that more than 450 daily activities were carried out by peacekeepers, which have deterred escalations. “It’s something the Lebanese people should all be proud of,” he stated, pointing to the absence of hostilities in over a decade.
“As a UN peace operation, we did our utmost to implement the Mission’s mandate, but the absence of hostilities over the last 14 years must not lead to complacency,” he added.
Del Col wished to see in 2021 more determination coming from UNIFIL, as a necessary tool to move towards the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701.
Unanimously approved by the United Nations Security Council on August 11 of 2006, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 is a resolution that was intended to resolve the 2006 Lebanon War.
Acknowledging the challenges of the past year, Del Col insisted on seeing some glimmers of hope.
“New developments in the south of Lebanon show promise. We need to look ahead and take further steps to mark the Blue Line and settle disputed areas as an important deconfliction measure,” he stated.
Del Col went on to add that the UNIFIL will continue to support and exert all efforts to increase the capacity of their strategic partners, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), in southern Lebanon, both on the ground and at sea.
“The continued support of the international community for the LAF as the sole and legitimate provider of security is a crucial factor in the maintenance of peace and security in the south of Lebanon,” he said.