BEIRUT: The head of the U.N. Interim United Forces in Lebanon, Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, said Sunday the Israel-Lebanon border is witnessing the calmest period in years due to close ties between the peacekeepers and the Army.
“Six years following the adoption of Resolution 1701, we are witnessing the calmest period southern Lebanon has seen in many years,” Serra said on the occasion of handing leadership of Italair from Lt. Col. Andrea Cercolani to Lt Col. Giuliano Innecco.
“Much of this unprecedented peaceful period can be attributed to the ever closer relationship between UNIFIL and the Lebanese armed forces, and the kind support of the Lebanese people, for which I am deeply grateful,” he added.
UNIFIL’s peacekeeping presence was beefed up in the wake of the 2006 conflict between Lebanon and Israel. The 11,260-strong international force is mandated with maintaining a cessation of hostilities, as well as monitoring the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
During the ceremony, Serra also said that UNIFIL remains determined to assist both Israel and Lebanon “to maintain and solidify the cessation of hostilities and to promote full respect for and implementation of Resolution 1701.
“To this end, we will continue to work closely with the Lebanese armed forces, the Lebanese authorities and our United Nations partners to fulfill our mandated tasks,” added Serra who took over the UNIFIL helm in January of 2012.
He also spoke of Italair and praised its achievements since its establishment in 1979, making it UNIFIL’s oldest unit.
“It is comprised of Italian air force, army and navy crews, working in perfect synergy to operate the four Augusta Bell 212 helicopters. During its more than 33 years of service, Italair completed more than 36,000 flight hours, including 400 performed by the outgoing crew – a remarkable accomplishment,” Serra said.