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UN - Lebanon: Security Council calls for freedom of movement of UN peacekeepers

Strongly deploring recent incidents directed at United Nations blue helmets in Lebanon, the Security Council today called for ensuring the safety and freedom of movement of the peacekeepers serving there.

Members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have recently been the target of protests and attacks by villagers in the south of the country in response to routine military exercises carried out by the mission.

“The members of the Security Council strongly deplore the recent incidents involving UNIFIL peacekeepers which took place in southern Lebanon on June 29th, July 3rd and July 4th in the UNIFIL area of operation,” Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for July, said in a statement read out to the press following closed-door talks.

They also emphasized the importance of not impairing UNIFIL’s ability to fulfil its mandate under Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah.

The resolution also calls for respect of the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, the disarming of all militias operating in Lebanon and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

“They call on all parties to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL remains respected in conformity with its mandate and its rules of engagement,” the statement added.

In addition to monitoring the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hizbollah, UNIFIL is also tasked with accompanying and supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as they deploy throughout the south, and extending its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.

Also today, Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, discussed the recent incidents involving UNIFIL with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami.

“We all hope that the situation has now calmed down and that there will be no recurrence of such incidents,” he in a statement following the meeting in Beirut.

Mr. Williams asserted that UNIFIL’s freedom of movement is a critical element for it to discharge its mandate and it must be fully respected.

“I think that we all agree that the excellent cooperation between UNIFIL and LAF has been the backbone of the stability that has prevailed in the south, and we must do all we can to maintain and to enhance it,” he added.

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