BEIRUT — The head of UN Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on Thursday met with Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, parliament speaker, minister of foreign affairs and defense minister to discuss “cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army,” as well as the killing last month of an Irish UN peacekeeper in South Lebanon, according to separate statements issued by the four senior officials.
Head of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Aroldo Lazaro and United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka, along with other Lebanese officials, also attended the meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and the defense minister, according to their statements.
Lacroix “praised the Lebanese authorities' serious investigation into the fatal incident, stressing the United Nations' support for Lebanon's security and stability and saying that UNIFIL will coordinate its movements with the army," according to the Grand Serail.
The Irish Defense Forces said in a statement released shortly after the December incident that a convoy of two armored utility vehicles carrying eight UNIFIL personnel traveling to Beirut had come under "small arms fire." The statement added that Irish peacekeeper died from a bullet to the head when seven projectiles pierced his vehicle. Three other peacekeepers in the same vehicle were injured when it hit a pylon and overturned.
Amid accusations, Hezbollah denied the party's involvement in the "unintentional incident.’’
The Lebanese military court has pressed charges against seven people allegedly involved in the attack, and Hezbollah has handed over a man suspected of killing.
Mikati said on Thursday that Lebanon was committed to implementing UN Security Council Resolution No. 1701, which prohibits all armed militias from operating anywhere in all of Lebanon.
Later on Thursday, Lacroix met with Parliament Speaker Berri who also stressed "the importance and role of the international forces in monitoring and stopping the daily Israeli breaches and violations of UN Resolution 1701," stressing Lebanon's commitment to it, and noting the "deep historical relationship" between the Lebanese with the UNIFIL forces operating in South Lebanon.
Lacroix also met with the Defense Minister Maurice Slim who expressed his regret for the incident that claimed the life of the Irish UNIFIL soldier and offered assurances that investigations into it are proceeding and that the suspected perpetrator is under arrest.
For his part, Lacroix pointed out that the al-Aaqbiya incident "was a shock to everyone, and everything must be done to secure everything that reduces tension in the south, stressing the importance of the investigation reaching the desired results and holding all those found responsible in the incident accountable," according to the defense minister's statement.
Lacroix also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib who called on the United Nations "to strictly condemn the continuous Israeli land, sea and air violations of Lebanese sovereignty and of resolution 1701 (2006) and work to prevent them."
Also on Thursday, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Michael Martin, who is also the Irish defense minister and foreign affairs minister, accompanied by Commander of the Irish Defense Forces Gen. Shane Clancy and Irish Ambassador to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria Noala O'Brien, visited Ireland's UNIFIL battalion at its headquarters in the town of Tiri, South Lebanon, the Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported. They were received by the Irish battalion commander, Col. Damian Murphy, and senior Irish officers.
In Tebnine, South Lebanon, Martin laid a wreath on the memorials of the Irish peacekeepers killed in Lebanon and the Irish soldier who was killed in the Aaqbiya incident in December, in the presence of the head of the Citadel Union, the mayor of Tebnine, Nabil Fawaz and other locals, all of whom observed a minute of silence in memory of the Irish victims.
Martin was also briefed by Murphy on the work of his country's force in with UNIFIL in Lebanon's south.