The UN Security Council on Wednesday extended the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for another year amid pressure from the United States for the UN force to take action against Hezbollah militants.
The council unanimously backed a French-drafted resolution after much wrangling with the United States over the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel.
France argued that UNIFIL had succeeded in maintaining calm in south Lebanon but the United States pushed for action by the mission against Hezbollah militants it accuses of stockpiling weapons and readying for war.
“Conditions in south Lebanon are very dangerous today. The clouds of war are gathering,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote.
“UNIFIL exists to help prevent war from happening again and it is supposed to do that.”
The resolution highlights that UNIFIL has the authority to “take all necessary actions” in areas where its forces are deployed and must ensure that its area of operations is “not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.”
It also requests that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres look at ways to increase UNIFIL’s visible presence, through patrols and inspections, but within its existing mandate.
“UNIFIL can, of course, do better and do more,” said French Deputy Ambassador Anne Gueguen, but she stressed that the force was indeed keeping the peace.
“No one in this council can imagine for one second the environment that would exist there without UNIFIL.”
Israel welcomed the mandate renewal, with Ambassador Danny Danon saying that “the resolution requires UNIFIL to open its eyes, and forces it to act against Hezbollah’s terror buildup in the area.”
Set up in 1978, UNIFIL was beefed up after the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, tasked with guaranteeing a ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from a demilitarized zone on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
It now has 10,500 troops on the ground monitoring the ceasefire and helping the Lebanese government secure its borders.