UN Peacekeeping chief wraps up Lebanon leg of regional trip
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix concluded a four-day visit to Lebanon yesterday. This was part of a regular visit to peacekeeping missions in the Middle East, though it came in the context of high tension along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.
During the visit, Mr. Lacroix discussed the important role of UNIFIL in de-escalating tension along the Blue Line.
“All actors must cease fire, recommit to resolution 1701, and work toward a durable political and diplomatic solution,” he stressed. “This is the only way to achieve a lasting peace.”
During the visit, Mr. Lacroix met with senior Lebanese officials including Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Miqati, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib, Minister of Defense Maurice Sleem, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun, and Head of General Security Major General Elias Al-Baysari.
He also met with ambassadors of the countries sending troops to serve with UNIFIL, ambassadors of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, as well as other members of the diplomatic community.
His central message in those meetings was the need to de-escalate current tensions across the Blue Line.
“We are deeply concerned by the exchanges of fire across the Blue Line we have seen since the 8th of October, indicating potential for a wider escalation, which must be avoided,” said Mr. Lacroix, as he concluded the Lebanon leg of his tour. “We continue to urge all actors to cease fire, as each day this continues increases the risk of a larger and more devastating conflict.”
Since the exchanges of fire began, dozens of civilians and journalists have been injured or killed. UNIFIL positions have been hit more than two dozen times, with three peacekeepers injured.
“This is not acceptable and must end,” said Mr. Lacroix. “We once again remind the parties, and actors involved in the exchanges of fire, of their obligation to avoid harm to civilians and of the inviolability of UN personnel and premises.”
Mr. Lacroix commended the perseverance demonstrated by the more than 10,000 UNIFIL peacekeepers in the face of these challenges.
“In the current context, UNIFIL has continued all efforts to implement its mandate despite challenges on a scale unprecedented since 2006,” he said. “The mission and its peacekeepers remain steadfast in their continued support for a long-term solution to the conflict."