A woman throws stone during a protest following last week's explosion in Beirut.
The UN Security Council remains at odds over the way the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground, with the United States backing Israel’s demands for major changes.
At a closed council meeting Tuesday on the mission known as UNIFIL, whose mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month, US Ambassador Kelly Craft stressed the need for a new mandate.
"The US has long reiterated publicly and privately that the status quo in Lebanon is unacceptable,” Craft said in a statement to The Associated Press after the meeting. "Now is the time to empower UNIFIL, end the long complacency, and enable the mission to fully achieve what it was set out to accomplish.”
The UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground, with the United States backing Israel’s demands for major changes.
But Craft faces an uphill struggle because most of the council backs a continuation of the current UNIFIL mandate.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to the council calling for a 12-month renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate, stressing the importance of maintaining high troop strength.
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah militants so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.
Germany’s deputy UN ambassador Günter Sautter told the council in remarks circulated by the country’s UN mission that "recent tensions and the danger of escalation only underline the importance of UNIFIL presence on the ground.” He said "the new political reality" since last week’s devastating explosion at Beirut's port made it "more important than ever.”
There are immediate humanitarian needs that need to be addressed and necessary reforms.
"UNIFIL’s mandate continues to be of utmost importance,” Sautter said. "It is clear that UNIFIL will not be able to do more with less. We therefore fully support UNIFIL in its current mandate and strength, and we hope that the council will once more show unanimous support to this important mission.”
Israel has repeatedly accused Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants of impeding the peacekeepers from carrying out their mandate.Associated Press
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