BEIRUT — UNIFIL commander Major General Aroldo Lázaro chaired a routine meeting with senior officers from the Lebanese and Israeli armies Thursday at the international force's Ras Naqoura position, amid ongoing negotiations over the maritime border between the two countries.
Though among the UN peacekeeping force's regular sit-downs with both sides, Thursday's meeting came as Lebanon and Israel are currently negotiating their shared maritime border, with mediation from the United States. Earlier this month, Lebanese President Michel Aoun stated that these negotiations are "in their final phase" and that US Envoy Amos Hochstein should submit his proposal soon to resolve the dispute between the two countries.
During the meeting Thursday, Lázaro noted that the UN Security Council, in renewing UNIFIL’s mandate in August, had stressed the value of these regular talks, according to a statement published on the UNIFIL website. “Resolution 2650 [the UNIFIL mandate renewal] reiterated the importance of the tripartite mechanism, strongly urging the parties to make constructive and expanded use of this forum," he was quoted as saying.
The Lebanese Army said in a statement Thursday that “the Lebanese side addressed the daily and repeated Israeli attacks on Lebanese sovereignty by land, sea and air, and reaffirmed Lebanon's commitment to Resolution 1701 [meant to resolve the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israeli forces] and all its implications. It also called on the United Nations to exert maximum pressure on the Israeli enemy in order to curb its hostile practices.”
Since 2006, UNIFIL has had a sizable presence with an average of more than 11,000 peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.
This year, the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate caused a stir in Lebanon as Hezbollah and its allies denounced amendments to the UN prerogatives in the south granting the peacekeeping force greater freedom of movement. UNIFIL clarified that it continues to coordinate its movements with the Lebanese Army, even when not physically accompanied by the military.