Marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Aroldo Lázaro reflected on the mission’s origins and his hope, one day, for a lasting peace in the region.
Speaking to an audience gathered at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura for the occasion, Major General Lázaro said that “[t]he ultimate success of Resolution 1701 will be found in a permanent ceasefire and a sustainable peace. That needs a political agreement, and it is not something that we, as peacekeepers, can accomplish only ourselves. Our role is to create the conditions for this process to take place.”
Turning to recent tensions along the Blue Line, he noted that, “[o]ur peacekeepers have been on the ground to defuse potential incidents and maintain calm. Thanks to their efforts, and with the strong commitment of the parties, the situation has not escalated. I continue to urge all parties to refrain from any action that could lead to misunderstanding, reaction, and cause a break in the cessation of hostilities.”
Major General Lázaro recognized the contribution and dedication of the mission’s civilian and military peacekeepers who have served UNIFIL since 1978. He paid tribute to the sacrifice of 328 fallen military peacekeepers, including Irish Private Seán Rooney, who was tragically killed on 14 December 2022.
“Over these 45 years, the commitment of our peacekeepers has never wavered,” he said. “It’s why our uniform members, hailing from 47 different countries, and supported by civilian peacekeepers from dozens more, undertake more than 450 operational activities each day – working together to implement UNIFIL’s mandate on land, at sea, and in the air.”
On 19 March 1978, the UN Security Council adopted resolutions 425 and 426, establishing UNIFIL to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore international peace and security and assist the Lebanese Government in restoring its effective authority in the area. Following the 2006 war, the Council significantly enhanced UNIFIL’s mandate under resolution 1701, assigning it additional tasks together with the Lebanese Armed Forces in south Lebanon.
Today, UNIFIL has about 10,000 military personnel from 47 countries and over 800 national and international civilian staff.
At today’s ceremony, a total of 33 peacekeepers were awarded UN medals for their service in furthering peace in south Lebanon.
Major General Aroldo Lázaro Speech