UNIFIL Establishment day, 18 March 2011
Naqoura, Lebanon – The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today held a ceremony at the Mission headquarters to observe the 33rd anniversary of its peacekeeping presence in southern Lebanon.
Peacekeepers representing the 34 different national contingents that make up UNIFIL participated in the ceremony. Attending were representatives from the Lebanese armed and security forces, local mayors, community officials, as well as senior diplomats.
UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas and Lebanese Armed Forces South Area Commander Brigadier-General Jalal Maki representing the Lebanese Armed Forces Commander laid wreaths at the UNIFIL cenotaph in memory of fallen peacekeepers.
"Since its establishment, UNIFIL has suffered the loss of 306 military and civilian peacekeepers, who lost their lives while serving the cause of peace in southern Lebanon," Major-General Asarta said. "We shall never forget the ultimate sacrifice that they made in the effort to implement our mandate," he added.
The Force Commander expressed his appreciation for the Lebanese Armed Forces "who continue to be an excellent partner in the performance of our duties". He said: "UNIFIL remains committed to increase the Lebanese Armed Forces' capabilities to perform the tasks included in Security Council resolution 1701and to gradually assume their corresponding security responsibilities in the south. To this end UNIFIL will further increase the number of activities in close coordination and cooperation with the Lebanese Army."
During the ceremony Major-General Asarta awarded the United Nations Peace Medal to a number of military staff officers deployed in Naqoura as a token of appreciation for their contribution towards the implementation of UNIFIL's mandate.
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 war, the Security Council, by its resolution 1701 of 11 August 2006, enhanced the Force and assigned it additional tasks working in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces in southern Lebanon.
UNIFIL currently comprises around 12,000 troops, supported by about 1,000 civilian international and local staff. This includes about 800 naval personnel of the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force.