United Nations Secretary-General visits UNIFIL, 14 January 2012

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12 Sep 2012

United Nations Secretary-General visits UNIFIL, 14 January 2012

Naqoura, Lebanon – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today visited the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) where he was received by UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas. He also undertook a brief tour by helicopter of the Line of Withdrawal (Blue Line).

"UNIFIL is one of the oldest United Nations peacekeeping missions. It is one of the most prominent in terms of strength and resources. Most importantly, UNIFIL is playing a major role in bringing peace to this troubled region and our world," the Secretary-General said in an address at a ceremony at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura in southern Lebanon.

He noted the strong partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain peace and stability and said UNIFIL's confidence-building role is "creating space in which the parties can seek a long-term solution to the conflict."

The Secretary-General inspected a Guard of Honour representing various contingents from UNIFIL's 35 troop-contributing countries. He laid a wreath at the Cenotaph and observed a minute of silence in memory of the 293 peacekeepers who gave their lives in the service of peace in southern Lebanon.

The Secretary-General presented the UN Medal to Major-General Asarta and was briefed by senior UNIFIL officials about the Mission and its operations.

In his speech, the Secretary-General stressed that the safety of UNIFIL personnel was "critically important" and that he had called on government officials during his meetings to strengthen protection for UNIFIL.

More UNIFIL personnel lost their lives than in any other UN peacekeeping operations, he said. "This weighs heavily on my heart."

The Secretary-General last visited UNIFIL in January 2009. This is his third visit to the Mission. Deployed to southern Lebanon in 1978, UNIFIL currently has about 12,100 soldiers from 35 countries. UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force, the first in a UN peacekeeping mission, currently comprises nine ships patrolling Lebanese waters. In addition, UNIFIL has about 700 national and 300 international civilian staff members.