The commander of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon today reached agreement with senior Lebanese and Israeli military officers on improved coordination, and also discussed the Blue Line that separates the two countries, while in New York a new United Nations report cautioned that much remains to be done to bring long-term stability to the area.
Security Council resolution 1701, which ended 34 days of fighting between Hizbollah and Israel in August, mandated a complete Israeli withdrawal together with Lebanese army deployment in southern Lebanon, and today’s meeting also discussed ways to speed up the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the northern part of Ghajar to positions south of the Blue Line.
“The meeting was held in a constructive atmosphere. It was a productive meeting, and I look forward to the coordination arrangements contributing to an improved level of confidence on the ground,” said UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano after the discussions, which were held in the UN post at the border crossing of Ras Al Naqoura.
Separately, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his latest report to the Security Council on resolution 1701, which covers the past three months in the area, that UNIFIL now had over 12,430 troops from 29 contributing countries on the ground, out of a total of up to 15,000 mandated by the resolution.
While reporting that the overall commitment by both the Israeli and Lebanese Governments to resolution 1701 “remains strong,” he points out the acute and continuing political crisis in Lebanon and mounting Israeli concerns about the unauthorized transfer of arms across the Lebanese-Syrian border.
He also expresses concern that there has not been greater progress in resolving such issues as the captured Israeli soldiers and the Lebanese prisoners, the Shab’a Farms border situation and Israeli overflights. Mr. Ban further highlights the continuing danger posed to Lebanese citizens in the south by unexploded ordnance left over from last year’s conflict, particularly from the use by the Israelis of cluster bombs.
“Challenging work remains ahead for the implementation of resolution 1701. Both parties could do more to further its implementation. Maintaining the momentum is the responsibility of the Lebanese, the Government of Israel, regional countries and other Member States,” he writes.
“If there is no progress on core issues such as the prisoners, the Shab’a Farms area, Israeli overflights and enforcement of the arms embargo, progress on resolution 1701 will be severely tested in the months to come.”