Finnish and Estonian Prime Ministers highlight importance of peace in Lebanon
On 17 August 2015, the Prime Minister of Finland, Mr. Juha Sipilä and the Prime Minister of Estonia, Mr. Taavi Rõivas paid a joint visit to the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura, southern Lebanon and visited their troops operating in Finnish-Irish Battalion (FINIRISHBATT) of UNIFIL.
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major-General Luciano Portolano briefed the Prime Ministers and their delegations on the situation in the area of operations, the regional situation and issues related to the implementation of UNIFIL's mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701.
During the visit, the leaders of the two Northern neighboring countries, visited the FINIRISHBATT main base as well as UN position on the Blue Line and met with Finnish and Estonian peacekeepers. The visit was hosted by the Commanding Officer FINIRISHBATT Lieutenant Colonel Pertti Kelloniemi.
The Prime Ministers were accompanied by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Finland, Lieutenant General Arto Räty and Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Riho Terras as well as Finnish Ambassador to Lebanon, Mr. Matti Lassila and Estonian Ambassador, Mr. Miko Haljas.
Finland currently leads the Finnish-Irish Battalion operating in Sector West of UNIFIL. From a total of over 500 force, Finland contributes around 300 troops and Ireland around 200 troops. As of end May this year, the Estonian detachment with about 40 peacekeepers serves as part of Finnish Contingent in FINIRISHBATT in southern Lebanon.
Finland deployed peacekeeper troops in 1982-2001 and from 2006-2007. Finnish troops re-joined the operation in May 2012. In addition to troops involved in the UNIFIL, Finnish military observers participate in United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
UN peacekeeping missions to Croatia (1995) and Lebanon (1996) were the first operations abroad for Estonian Defence Forces after the country restored its independence. In addition to UNIFIL, Estonia also contributes to UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and has military observers in UNTSO.
UNIFIL comprises over 10,000 military personnel from 39 countries, including the Maritime Task Force, the only naval force in peacekeeping operations - and 1,000 civilian national and international staff.