UNIFIL Commander: Strong partnership between peacekeepers and local community vital


NNA - Naqoura - During his introductory meeting with local authorities and religious leaders from south-western Lebanon, Head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Major General Michael Beary today underlined the importance of cooperation between UN peacekeepers and the host community in order to sustain the existing calm while working together for a permanent peace.

Major General Michael Beary told the gathering of some 60 dignitaries, including Qaem Maqams, mayors, mukhtars and religious leaders, that while the ten years of peace in south Lebanon is a work in progress "its cause can only be advanced one small step at a time."

"One of the most fundamental and enduring features of Lebanese society is its sense of community and the respect that the people of the south have for their religious, political and civil leaders," said the UNIFIL Head.

He noted that since the last of his three previous deployments to UNIFIL, in 1995, south Lebanon has changed almost beyond recognition. "My eyes have been opened by the new infrastructure, the economic developments, the educational opportunities and most importantly, the security situation," said Major General Beary.

Major General Beary added that such an achievement can only be done through the strong partnership between the local leaders, the LAF, the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL. He stated that achieving the final goal of permanent peace is ultimately what the implementation of the resolution 1701 is all about.

Today's fruitful interaction between the UNIFIL Head of Mission and local leaders was frank, open and constructive. Major General Beary emphasized that those around the table needed to work together to continue the progress that has been made over the last 10 years. He said it is time to look forward. "UNIFIL peacekeepers will do everything to safeguard peace, while working together with you," he assured.

During today's meeting, Major General Beary asked the local leaders and dignitaries to contact the Mission's civil affairs officers or the local battalion or sector commanders should they have any issue concerning UNIFIL.

He also said UNIFIL's freedom of movement, as mandated by resolution 1701 and within its area of operations, is "central to the success of our mission and your support in making this possible will be critical." He also sought the local leaders' support in preventing incidents of Blue Line violations.

Since taking charge of UNIFIL in July, the UNIFIL Head has been meeting with Lebanese leaders, both in Beirut and in southern Lebanon, to convey his deep appreciation for their unwavering support to the Mission and to discuss issues of mutual concern.

UNIFIL has contributed more than $178 million - in the form of salaries, pensions and procurement of goods and services - to the Lebanese economy in the past three years. So far this year, UNIFIL has completed 180 small-scale projects at a total cost of $2.3 million.

Since UNIFIL's deployment in 1978, 325 military and civilian members of the Mission have paid the ultimate price in the cause of peace. "None of us want the sacrifice of those peacekeepers and their families to have been in vain," said Major General Beary.

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