UNIFIL celebrates its establishment day in southern Lebanon
19 March 2015
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today held a ceremony to mark the 37th anniversary of its peacekeeping presence in southern Lebanon at the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura.
Peacekeepers representing the 38 national contingents that make up UNIFIL were joined at the commemorative ceremony by representatives of the Lebanese Armed Forces and other security agencies, a member of the Lebanese Parliament, members of the international community, local mayors and community leaders.
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano, accompanied by Brigadier-General Francois Chahine, representing the LAF Commander laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph to honor the 308 peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the line of service.
Paying tribute to peacekeepers who have died since 1978, Major-General Portolano recalled the incident on 28 January which resulted in the tragic death of the UNIFIL Spanish peacekeeper Lance Corporal Soria Toledo, "It was a stark reminder that the situation remains fragile. It also underscored the important role that UNIFIL continues to play to defuse any further escalation and assist the parties to restore calm and stability along the Blue Line."
During his speech Major-General Portolano said: "UNIFIL is committed to supporting the generous people of south of Lebanon in many ways including through projects that benefit communities in the whole area of operations." And he added: "UNIFIL, today, does not work only for the people of the south, but with the people of southern Lebanon. I will continue to reach out to local authorities, religious leaders and communities in the south – in addition to the daily contacts with our peacekeepers – in uniform and civilians – on the ground."
"I cannot conclude today's ceremony without recognizing the great work carried out by the LAF and Lebanese security organisations, who – in spite of their engagement throughout the country- continue to be UNIFIL's strategic and reliable partner."
"LAF and UNIFIL are working more closely than ever through coordination of daily operations on the ground and through continued progress in the strategic dialogue mechanism. I consider this collaboration the keystone of the success of the implementation of resolution 1701," he said.
"Our success, also, rests on the close collaboration and synergy with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon and the United Nations family in this wonderful country."
UNIFIL was created by the UN Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 of 19 March 1978, to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area.
Following the July/August 2006 conflict, the Security Council, by its resolution 1701, significantly enhanced UNIFIL's mandate and capacity and assigned it additional tasks working closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces in Southern Lebanon.
Today, UNIFIL comprises over 10,000 military personnel from 38 countries, including the Maritime Task Force, the only naval force in peacekeeping operations - and 1,000 civilian national and international staff.
UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano speech