SIDON, Lebanon: UNIFIL head Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra Monday attributed the recent calm in the south to the force’s cooperation with the Lebanese Army and local residents.
Speaking at a Bourj Qalawy ceremony to hand over control of the French Force Commander’s Reserve from Colonel Philippe Francois to Colonel Eric Peltier, Serra said that “over the past months, the situation in the area of operations has remained relatively calm.
This can be attributed to our close cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces as our strategic partner, and the tireless support of the local population.”
Lauding the work of the French peacekeepers, Serra said they have played a key role in building confidence among locals and the Lebanese Army. “Successful implementation of [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1701 relies on this close cooperation, openness and mutual trust. This is the way to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of south Lebanon,” he added.
Serra highlighted the FCR’s operations in countering rocket-launching operations, patrolling the Blue Line, mine clearance and radar surveillance support. He said the FCR has undertaken “numerous civic activities in support of the people of southern Lebanon, winning their respect and affection.”
Expressing appreciation for Francois’ “competent” leadership, Serra said his soldiers have made a significant contribution to implementing UNIFIL’s mandate since their arrival in March.
France recently reduced the number of troops it contributes to UNIFIL from around 1,300 to just over 900.
Although 10 French peacekeepers were injured in two separate roadside bombs in Tyre and Sidon last year, French officials have insisted the decision to downsize was a cost-cutting measure, rather than a political move.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 25, 2012, on page 4.