Commemorating the first anniversary of Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, a senior United Nations official today noted progress achieved over the past year but warned that an escalation by either side could wipe out what has been accomplished so far.
"Very important gains have been made in this one year as people live in much less fear, and the daily conflict that marked their lives under occupation is over," Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon, told the press in Beirut. "However, as we all know and feel, the region is in a very tense period, with an ever-increasing risk of escalation and further violence."
Mr. de Mistura stressed that recent threatening statements were not in the interest of anyone in the region, particularly the Lebanese people. "Actions by any side that create an unwanted spiral of violence, especially across the Blue Line [which marks the withdrawal], threaten to destroy important gains in the South," he said.
Calling the liberation a "major victory" for the Lebanese people and for stability in the region, the envoy stressed, "This is the time to work to safeguard this achievement, and not risk its rewards."
The UN continued to urge Lebanon to move further in restoring its full and effective authority and economic development in the South so that the area would experience further improvements in stability and security, he observed. "I also take this occasion to call on both sides to release all detainees that are still being held and to urge that they are treated according to international humanitarian rules and norms," he added.
Mr. de Mistura also pledged the UN's ongoing support in helping Lebanon to improve the lives of those in the South. "The UN will continue to work towards achieving the crucial and essential goal of a comprehensive peace in the region," he said.