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UN extends peacekeeping mission in Lebanon as China, Russia abstain

August 31, 2023 at 7:11 pm

The Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Peacekeeping Force (UNIFIL) inspect the area after Israeli attacks near the city of Tyre on April 07, 2023 [Hussam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

The UN Security Council overwhelmingly voted, Thursday, to renew a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for another year after a one-day delay in the vote.

The vote was initially to take place Wednesday but was pulled back to allow the French and US missions to negotiate language about peacekeepers’ freedom of movement. The Council voted 13-0 to reauthorise the mission, with permanent members Russia and China abstaining.

Authorisation for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was set to expire within hours.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US UN envoy, who also serves as Council president for the month of August, said the agreed-upon language in the reauthorisation resolution “includes language strongly reaffirming UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, and its ability to conduct announced and unannounced patrols.”

“It is imperative this be fully implemented and that UNIFIL not face unacceptable obstacles to carrying out its mission,” she told the Council.

READ: UN renews mandate of peacekeepers in Lebanon

“We know UNIFIL has been unable to access a range of troubling sites across the blue line, including illegal firing ranges, Green Without Borders sites, rocket launch sites and tunnel sites. It is clear the main purpose of these sites is to facilitate Hezbollah’s operations in southern Lebanon along the Blue Line,” Thomas-Greenfield added.

The US, on 16 August sanctioned Lebanon-based Green Without Borders, which it accused of serving as a front for Hezbollah, a US-designated terror organisation. The Biden administration said the organisation has established outposts in more than a dozen locations along the Blue Line, which serves as the UN’s demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel.

UNIFIL was established in 1978 to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon following an earlier invasion.

Lebanon lauded the Council’s decision to extend the peacekeeping mission’s mandate but said Russia and China’s decision to abstain was a worrying development.

“Unfortunately, this is the first time where the extension of the UNIFIL mandate resolution is involving the abstention of two Security Council members, and this is a very, very significant indicator,” Jeanne Mrad, Lebanon’s UN envoy, told the Council.

China said it chose to abstain because the resolution “failed to fully address the concerns of the state concerned and Security Council members.” Russia said it disputed “some of the wording in the resolution.”

READ: Lebanon: UNIFIL head expresses concern over incidents along ‘Blue Line’