In a farewell speech, Major-General Asarta looked back at his two years of service as Force Commander. "The cessation of hostilities and respect for the Blue Line have generally been upheld by the parties," he said, adding that UNIFIL has played and will continue to play an important role in this regard and in preventing any incidents from escalating.
He added: "Working in close partnership with UNIFIL, [the Lebanese Armed Forces] demonstrated, time and again, and despite constraints faced, its professionalism and outstanding commitment to fulfill resolution 1701."
Major-General Asarta pointed to the "enduring bond" between UNIFIL and the people of southern Lebanon. "Over the past two years, our relationship acquired ever new forms of interaction and we made every effort to gain the understanding and support of the local population, so vital for the fulfillment of our tasks," he said.
Major-General Asarta reviewed an Honour Guard representing UNIFIL's 35 troop-contributing countries and laid a wreath in memory of the 293 peacekeepers that lost their lives in the line of duty. He later signed the Transfer of Authority document and handed over the UN Flag to Major-General Serra.
The Lebanese Defence Minister, on behalf of President Michel Sleiman, awarded Major-General Asarta 'The National Order of the Cedar – Commander Grade'.
Major-General Serra, in his first speech as Force Commander and Head of Mission, said he is fully committed to working with the Lebanese Armed Forces, promising to further develop that strategic partnership to achieve the common goal of peace and stability in southern Lebanon.
Major-General Serra stressed that the Mission's mandate remains unchanged with the Transfer of Authority. He added that success of the Mission "lies in the continued commitment of all the parties to the cessation of hostilities and full respect of resolution 1701."
The new Force Commander said: "The respect for the Blue Line by the parties and their cooperation in UNIFIL's efforts to further the visible marking of the Blue Line is a process that can support the improving of the general security for the people of southern Lebanon."
UNIFIL currently has about 12,000 military and naval personnel from 35 countries deployed in southern Lebanon and with the Maritime Task Force off the coast. The civilian component of UNIFIL numbers more than 300 international and about 700 national staff members.