Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown today appealed to European countries to provide solid commitments for troops so that the first wave of the expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has the appropriate geographic balance to be politically effective and regarded as legitimate within the region.
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York after yesterday’s meeting of potential troop contributors, Mr. Malloch Brown said that although “enormously helpful” offers had emerged from Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal, it was vital for UNIFIL to have a strong European as well as Muslim content.
“We want this force that we deploy to have a kind of multinational, multilateral character so that it enjoys the confidence of both sides,” he said.
“We have said before that a Muslim-European or a European-Muslim force, because of both groups’ interest in this situation if you like, bring – when you combine them – a legitimacy that satisfies both sides to this conflict.”
Mr. Malloch Brown said he was heartened by signs today that Italy and Finland are willing to supply troops, and he was also pleased by Germany’s offer yesterday of marine and customs officers.
He also appealed for the provision of “force enablers” – units such as logistics, medical and engineering – to help open up and repair southern Lebanon’s damaged roads and infrastructure so that humanitarian relief can be distributed more easily and UN troops can focus on their monitoring role.
The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that the next few days “are going to be very challenging” if the UN is to meet its deadline of deploying some 3,500 troops within 10 days of yesterday’s meeting as a first wave in an expanded UNIFIL operation.
The meeting of dozens of potential troop contributors was convened after the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah took effect on Monday, following last Friday’s Security Council resolution to end the month-long conflict in the Middle East.
That resolution called for the existing UNIFIL to be given more robust rules of engagement and expanded to include up to 15,000 peacekeepers to support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy across the south of the country at the same time as Israel withdraws from the area.
Mr. Malloch Brown said there will be several more meetings of troop contributors or bilateral talks with individual nations in the days ahead to make sure that UNIFIL can firm up commitments from UN Member States.
The delegations from some nations had expressed concerns about the new rules of engagement for UNIFIL, and Mr. Malloch Brown urged them to consult with their capitals and then respond quickly to the UN’s request.
“It is not an offensive force. It’s not going to go in there and attempt large-scale disarmament. Rather it is going to police the political agreement which triggers disarmament, called for under the resolution, and therefore it will make a prudent use of force.”