The acting head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon today held further “productive” talks with senior Lebanese and Israeli officers aimed at securing Israel’s speedy withdrawal from the last position it occupies in the south of the country after this summer’s war with Hizbollah.
“Minor administrative issues with relation to Ghajar residents are still pending, and UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) hopes they will be solved at the next meeting early next week,” the Mission said in a statement, referring to the village straddling the line separating the two sides, the only post Israel still holds after its withdrawal from all other positions on 1 October.
“The meeting was productive and the main focus was to finalize arrangements for Ghajar after the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) withdrawal,” UNIFIL Acting Commander Brig.-General Jai Prakash Nehra declared after the meeting.
A complete Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, together with Lebanese army deployment in the area, is a key clause in UN Resolution 1701 that ended 34 days of fighting in August.
The resolution also mandates strengthening UNIFIL to a maximum of 15,000 troops, though Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini said last week he thought 10,000 might be sufficient. At present it has some 7,200 troops on the ground. The force’s naval unit became operational earlier this month, monitoring Lebanon’s territorial waters and the coastline to prevent arms smuggling.