Lebanon Asks UNIFIL to Coordinate With Army
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that the presence of the international peacekeepers operating in the South (UNIFIL) “is still necessary and urgent”, reiterating “Lebanon’s commitment to implementing Security Council Resolution 1701 and maintaining the number of international forces without any amendment.”
He also stressed the importance of UNIFIL’s continued coordination and close cooperation with the Lebanese army “to prevent any confusion.”
Diab visited on Wednesday the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura, following a number of incidents over the past few days between peacekeepers and residents of southern villages. He was accompanied by Defense Minister Zeina Akar and Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun.
On Tuesday, residents of the southern village of Blida accused a UNIFIL military vehicle of hitting two cars and a motorbike, the state-run National News Agency reported. UNIFIL said it was investigating the incident.
“The need for UNIFIL troops is still necessary and urgent, in light of the Israeli attempts to destabilize south Lebanon and the continued violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty by land, sea and air,” the Lebanese prime minister said in a televised conference before his meeting with UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col.
Del Col, for his part, said he was looking forward to “working with the Lebanese government and particularly the Lebanese Army on implementing UNSCR 1701 in full, and addressing any unresolved cases.”
The prime minister’s visit also came in the wake of statements made by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in which he responded to what he said were US demands to amend the mission of UNIFIL and grant it the right to search civilian homes.
“Since 2006, UNIFIL has been working in coordination with the Lebanese Army. Israel and the US want to give it free rein to raid and search private properties,” Nasrallah said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
“They want to reduce UNIFIL numbers? Go ahead. Increase them? Go ahead,” Nasrallah said, adding if they also want to leave it will be no problem. “But we consider expanding its mandate an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty.”