UNIFIL Commander: Our prime goal is to ensure that no incidents happen along Blue Line

JANUARY 27, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) UNIFIL Force Commander Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano said in an interview accorded to the “National News Agency” that the joint efforts between UNIFIL and the Lebanese army aimed to defuse tension and to ensure that the situation remained stable and under control.

“Regional developments undoubtedly remind us of the challenges that UNIFIL and the LAF are constantly facing to ensure stability in UNIFIL’s AO. Recent incidents on the Golan, albeit outside our area of operations, have been of serious concern and our focus is on ensuring that there are no incidents along the Blue Line that could lead to any escalation of the situation,” Portolano said.

“Given the regional situation, the recent events understandably raised the level of tension and concern among the local populations. Our combined efforts with the LAF are geared towards defusing tension ensuring that the situation in our area of operations remains stable and under control,” he added.

UNIFIL’s Force Commander went on to say that “the many facets of our operations, our patrols on the ground have been intensified in close coordination with LAF and with particular focus on the Blue Line. At the same time, we have more aerial patrols along the Blue Line as well as a maritime presence where we operate in close support of the Lebanese navy.”

He said that it was not just the number but also the nature of UNIFIL patrols that have been enhanced.

“We now conduct more foot patrols that allow peacekeepers to have closer contacts with the local population. These interactive patrols help us in being more present among the communities and better understand their concerns. This builds on the strong relationship we share with the people of south Lebanon, which is also manifested in the range of community projects UNIFIL undertakes in assistance to the local population,” he explained.

In this endeavor, we work closely with all our UN partners in Lebanon: UNSCOL, UNCT and UN Agencies.

“I would like to emphasize that the unremitting support and assistance I have been receiving from the Lebanese authorities, religious leaders and the local communities has been invaluable to UNIFIL’s ability to pursue our common quest for maintaining peace and security in southern Lebanon. Stability depends on many important factors and preventing violations of UNSC resolution 1701 is a main element of preserving peace. This is the common goal that embraces UNIFIL, the Lebanese army and the Lebanese people in general,” Portolano said.

“We are in constant touch with the parties and we keep an open liaison channel to ensure effective flow of information through UNIFIL and to avoid any misunderstandings among the parties. This has proved vital in preventing tension and incidents, and an essential mechanism to de-conflict the situation at critical moments,” UNIFIL’s Major General added.

“Both parties continue to firmly express their commitment to resolution 1701 and to maintain the cessation of hostilities,” he concluded.