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UN mission chairs talks with Lebanese, Israeli military officials

UN mission chairs talks with Lebanese, Israeli military officials

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The head of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon today chaired a tripartite meeting bringing together senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The gathering was chaired by Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Participants conferred on all issues relevant to the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, including the situation along the Blue Line and its ongoing visible marking.

Also discussed was the question of the village of Ghajar, whose northern section Israel continues to occupy, in contravention of the resolution.

In a report issued in February, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautioned that the situation in the region remains fragile, while adding that he is “pleased” by the parties’ continued commitment to resolution 1701.

“The continued respect of the cessation of hostilities by Israel and Lebanon has provided for the most stable period in the relationship between the two countries for decades.”

But he warned that the fragility of the situation is exacerbated by ever more strident rhetoric, “which raises tensions and should be avoided,” as well as being in contravention of the spirit of the resolution.

The resolution’s implementation also topped today’s talks between UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams and the country’s Defence Minister, Elias Murr, in the capital, Beirut.

The two men discussed recent events in south Lebanon, especially those involving the residents of some of the area’s villages and UNIFIL patrols.

They also agreed “that the excellent cooperation between UNIFIL and LAF over the past four years has been the backbone of the stability that has prevailed in south Lebanon,” Mr. Williams said. “This cooperation, we believe, must be maintained and enhanced.”

In recent weeks, protests have been directed at blue helmets, and the UN official today reiterated the crucial role played by the world body’s mission in the area, stressing the need for freedom of movement of UNIFIL to support the LAF.

“This, in turn, serves the interests of Lebanon and the stability of the wider region,” Mr. Williams told reporters after his meeting with the Lebanese Minister.