President Michel Aoun highlighted Wednesday the necessity to pursue partnership between the UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army, as well as to promote the role of the peacekeeping mission in monitoring the daily Israeli violations of Lebanon’s air, land and sea.
Aoun’s remarks came during a meeting with the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (P5) at Baabda presidential palace, in the presence of UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, and Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
Following is Aoun’s full speech as distributed by the Presidency’s Press Office:
Mr. Prime Minister,
For forty-two years, there has been a real partnership between Lebanon and the United nations through the presence of the United Nations Interim Force for Lebanon (UNIFIL), with its officers and troops coming from 45 friendly countries. Their contribution therein is highly appreciated, whereas the Force accompanies and supports the Lebanese Armed forces through their deployment in the four corners of the South, and assists as well the Lebanese government, upon the latter’s request, in securing its Southern borders. We remember today tens of martyrs from this Force who fell in various circumstances on Lebanese soil, serving its noble mission aimed at restoring international peace and security.
This partnership is embodied in a close and permanent cooperation between the Lebanese army and all the components of the UNIFIL, since its inception in 1978 and to date. Indeed, apart from the daily joint patrols, there are demining operations and joint military drills; and since 2006, the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force – the first of a kind in the history of the United Nations’ missions – undertakes joint exercises with the Lebanese Navy, and helps the Lebanese Army develop its capabilities and equip its naval forces as well as the model regiment, in implementation of Resolution 1701. Moreover, in collaboration with the municipalities, the UNIFIL carries out local social, educational, cultural and health projects that benefit the residents of the region.
The UNIFIL also undertakes another important task, namely following up the demarcation of the Blue Line. Its Command hosts military meetings within the tripartite mechanism which contributes to defusing tensions and addressing any urgent matters on the borders.
Thanks to this existing partnership between the Lebanese Army and the UNIFIL, the South has been enjoying, for fourteen years, a unique calm in a region that is rife with conflicts and wars. The UNIFIL is considered one of the exemplary missions that serve as a role model among international peacekeeping forces.
In its Ministerial Declaration, our Government has affirmed Lebanon’s commitment to Resolution 1701 and support for the international emergency forces in the South. Against this background, I stress the importance of pursuing and promoting the partnership between the UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army, the role of the UNIFIL in monitoring the daily Israeli violations by air, land and sea, and reporting detailed data about them to the UN Security Council to demonstrate Israel’s persistent infringement of Resolution 1701, and its violation of the Lebanese airspace to bombard Syrian territories.
The Lebanese Constitution stipulates that private properties must be respected and that accessing them requires prior authorization and escort from the concerned Lebanese authorities. As I stress that preserving stability in the South remains the responsibility of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese Army, I point out that the Army offers all the necessary facilities requested by the UNIFIL to ensure the good performance of its duties.
As for the limited incidents that occurred between UNIFIL groups and a number of citizens in some villages, they do not reflect any negative climate against the UNIFIL, whereas the rate of these incidents remains very low (0.03%) and their reasons are well known. Further incidents may be avoided by promoting cooperation between the international Force and the Lebanese Army, and by respecting the coordination and liaison mechanism between them.
Today, there is a growing need for the continuation of the UNIFIL mission to assist the Lebanese Army which carries out its duties on all the Lebanese territories under the critical circumstances that the country is currently going through and the multiple crises that are afflicting it, namely the unprecedented economic and financial crisis, the new coronavirus pandemic, the persistence of the terrorist threat in the region, and the crises of the Syrian displaced and Palestinian refugees.
While Lebanon hopes to be able, soon, to recover the Shebaa Farms and the Northern part of the Ghajar village, to reach a solution for the Blue Line points of reservation and to delineate the maritime borders, it currently holds on to the UNIFIL and its positive role. In this context, the Council of Ministers has adopted in its last session held last Friday May 29, 2020 a decision to file a request to the Security Council asking for the extension of the UNIFIL mission for an additional year as of August 31, 2020, without amending its mandate, the concept of its operations and its special engagement rules, in view of empowering it to pursue its vital role which represents a regional, rather an international need.
In conclusion, I would like to express Lebanon’s appreciation for the efforts of the United Nations, the friendly States and the Command and troops of the UNIFIL, and its commitment to Resolution 1701 and to continued calm and stability in the South. I wish to confirm as well that our keenness on the international force and on its paramount role is only outweighed by our attachment to the public freedoms consecrated by the Lebanese Constitution, and to Lebanon’s full sovereignty on all its territories, waters and airspace.”