UN Security Council extends UNIFIL mission in Lebanon amid compromise on troop movement

NEW YORK — In a significant development, the United Nations Security Council voted to extend the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mission for another year on Thursday, ensuring continued peacekeeping efforts along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. The decision came after a compromise was reached between France and the United States regarding language concerning the freedom of movement for UN troops.

UNIFIL, which was originally established in 1978, plays a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability in southern Lebanon. Its mandate is renewed annually, and the current authorization was set to expire on Thursday, 31 August 2023.

The French-drafted resolution secured 13 votes in favor, with abstentions from Russia and China. The vote was initially scheduled for Wednesday but was delayed due to disagreements between France, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates regarding language related to U.N. troop movement.

France maintained language in the resolution emphasizing the need for peacekeepers to coordinate with the Lebanese government. However, as a compromise with the US and the UAE, France reintroduced text from last year’s council resolution – which they had previously removed – demanding that all parties allow “announced and unannounced patrols” by UN troops.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, welcomed the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate in a statement, highlighting that it included a clause requested by Lebanon, which requires UNIFIL to carry out its work “in coordination with the Lebanese government”.

The decision to extend UNIFIL’s mission comes at a time of escalating tensions between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. Both parties have exchanged threats and rhetoric, raising concerns about a possible conflict, despite their official denials.

In December last year, an Irish peacekeeper lost his life when his UNIFIL vehicle came under fire in southern Lebanon. A Lebanese military tribunal has accused members of Hezbollah of involvement in the attack, although Hezbollah has officially denied any participation.

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti reiterated that the resolution reaffirms the organization’s “continued coordination with the government of Lebanon” as it carries out its tasks independently. He emphasized that the essential mandate of UNIFIL remained unchanged despite the compromises made in the resolution.