BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi expressed Wednesday gratitude for the international troops operating in Lebanon and stressed the importance of their presence in the country.
“Your presence among us during the hard and dark days reminded the whole world about the existence of this small country when the Lebanese people felt abandoned,” Kahwagi said during a ceremony to honor the UNIFIL and the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East.
“You have always played a pivotal role in the stability of Lebanon and the region; your presence is not only necessary but very useful and will always remain so,” the Army chief said during the ceremony held at the Officers Club in Yarzeh.
“On behalf of the entire Lebanese people, particularly the residents of the south, who have suffered through bad and unjust circumstances, the Lebanese Army expresses its gratitude for your work and sacrifices and affirms its commitment to keep on working with you to protect Lebanon.”
Michael Finn, the head of the UNTSO, hailed the efforts of the military in facing various challenges in the country and voiced satisfaction over the aid offered by the International Group to Support Lebanon to the Army.
“I am glad we have been able to help with the strong support of the Security Council, Secretary-General and the International Support Group in encouraging additional international assistance for the Army to enable it to meet challenges,” he said.
Fin also paid tribute for UNIFIL Commander Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, who is planning to leave Lebanon this year, and hailed his efforts in overseeing the international troops.
“It may be early to bid farewell but this is a good opportunity to recognize his unique contribution in the United Nations and the relationship of trust which exists between us,” he said.
For his part, Serra said the Lebanese Army proved over and over again its sense of responsibility and commitment to securing Lebanon’s stability and security.
UNIFIL has been operating in Lebanon since 1978 with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 425 and 426, to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
The mandate of the international troops was adjusted twice due to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
The deployment of the UNFIL in Lebanon was further enhanced in 2006 following the July war between Hezbollah and Israel and the mandate of the international troops was expanded to include monitoring the cessation of hostilities accompany and other tasks.