Peacekeeping force needs more commitment

Resolution 1701 calls for the 2,000-strong Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be strengthened to 15,000 personnel. (UN Photo/Maher Attar)

BEIRUT — The international community should show more commitment to calls by the United Nations to strengthen the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said experts in Beirut.

“For the ceasefire to hold, the international community needs to show more preparedness and commitment to joining the international peacekeeping force as soon as possible,” said Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of The Daily Star newspaper, on Monday.

There has already been a breach of the 14 August ceasefire as Israel carried out an attack on the eastern Beqaa Valley on 19 August. The UN condemned the action, saying it was a violation of UN Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1701, which calls for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the armed wing of Lebanese political party Hezbollah.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities,” a UN spokesman said on 19 August.

Israel said it was trying to stop weapons being smuggled from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There have also been several airspace violations by Israeli military aircraft, according to the UN.

The ceasefire brought fighting between Hezbollah and Israel to an end following a 34-day war, which began after the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah on 12 July.

Resolution 1701 calls for the 2,000-strong Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to be strengthened to 15,000 personnel. However, with few guarantees of the safety of such a force from Lebanon and Israel, western governments have been hesitant to commit forces.

France had been expected to lead the multinational force but has dismayed the UN by only offering 200 troops to date. While Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh have all offered to send troops, Israel has vowed not to accept their presence, as the countries do not recognise the Jewish state. Italy is now emerging as a potential lead contributor.

The resolution also called for the deployment of Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon, which has up to now been largely controlled by Hezbollah’s armed wing. The Lebanese government is in the process of sending 16,000 troops to the south, while Israeli troops make a gradual withdrawal from Lebanon.

“Neither Lebanon nor Israel [has] specified the exact mandate of the proposed peacekeeping force,” said Charles Harb, a social psychologist and analyst at the American University of Beirut. “There appears to be much discussion, but no concrete conditions have been laid down yet.”

The analysts’ comments follow a two-day visit to Lebanon by Vijay Nambiar, special adviser for the UN Secretary-General, and Terje Roed-Larsen, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the implementation of SCR 1559.

The visit was aimed at establishing how to implement Resolution 1701 in real, operational terms. According to an 18 August UN press statement, the UN hopes to send an extra 3,500 peacekeepers to south Lebanon by the end of the month.

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