In an ceremony attended by high-level dignitaries, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today transferred the command of the mission from Major General Michael Beary, of Ireland, to Major General Stefano Del Col of Italy, the UNIFIL indicated in a press release on Tuesday.
Major General Beary reviewed a UNIFIL Honour Guard and laid a wreath in memory of the 313 peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the service of peace since 1978. He later signed the Transfer of Authority document and handed over the UN Flag to Major General Stefano Del Col.
In his farewell speech to mark the end of his term, Major General Beary especially thanked the Government of Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces as well as religious, civil and community leaders in the south of Lebanon and the communities themselves in helping to further peace. "Today I will not say 'farewell', but rather 'until we meet again' � it is my hope that I will return at some time in the future to see the fruits of our labours here, peace and prosperity for the Lebanese people," Major General Beary said. "I have watched with admiration as the LAF have steadily improved their capability, demonstrating their capacity to defend the sovereign borders of Lebanon and to conduct operations here in the South with UNIFIL."
On assuming charge as Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Del Col said: "I will continue to lead UNIFIL along the path towards the implementation of our mandate under Security Council Resolution 1701 and associated UN resolutions."
Major General Del Col also spoke of his previous two tours of duty with UNIFIL as a Battalion Commander in 2008, and as the Commander of Sector West and Italian Contingent Commander in 2014-2015.
"For me this is like coming back home. I hope that we will serve this mission in peace," he told the invited guests in Arabic before switching back to English.
"I will be looking to you, the leadership of Lebanon and in particular here in the south, as key and committed partners in this endeavour in the spirit of true partnership," said Major General Del Col. "It is important for me to hear your concerns and also your suggestions on the best way forward, because we must walk together the path to peace," he added. "I am looking forward to working closely with all of the Lebanese security agencies -- our strategic partners the Lebanese Armed Forces, as well as General Security and the Internal Security Forces. Along with civilian agencies, working together we can secure the future of Lebanon and the Lebanese people."
The hand-over ceremony at UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura was attended by the Lebanese Minister Nicolas Tueny representing both the Lebanese President and the Prime Minister, Member of Parliament, Ali Bazzi, representing the Parliament Speaker, the Italian Minister of Defence Elisabetta Trenta, Lebanese Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun, the Italian Chief of Defence, General Claudio Graziano, representative of the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jihan Asaker, representative of the Lebanese Minister of Interior Affairs, Mansour Daou, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of Ireland, Major General Kieran Brennan, senior officers of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Internal Security Forces, General Security and State Security, religious leaders, regional and local government officials, ambassadors and senior UN officials, including UNTSO Head of Mission and Chief of Staff Major General Kristin Lund and UNDOF Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Vib-Sanziri
Major General Del Col has had a long and distinguished career in the Italian Army. Since 2015, Major General Del Col has been the Senior Deputy Chief of the Cabinet Office of the Minister of Defence.
Currently, UNIFIL comprises almost 10,500 military personnel from 42 countries, including the Maritime Task Force with six ships, the only naval force in peacekeeping operations - and some 800 civilian national and international staff. The Mission maintains an intensive level of some 13,500 operational activities monthly, by day and night, in the area of operations.
Source: National News Agency