Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, visited on Wednesday the South Litany Sector where he inspected Benoit Barakat military barrack in Tyre and UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura.
PM Diab was accompanied by Major General Mahmoud al Asmar, Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, and his Advisor Khodr Taleb.
In a first visit for a Prime Minister to South Litany Sector Command, PM Diab headed to Benoit Barakat military barrack where he was received by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Zeina Akar, LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun, and Lebanese Army South Litany Sector Commander Brigadier General Maroun al-Qobayati. Following official honor ceremonies, PM Diab chaired a joint meeting in the office of the Sector Commander.
Next, the Prime Minister and the accompanying delegation headed to the Sector’s operations room, where they were briefed about the role of the South Litany sector, the tasks carried out by the Army in the South in both eastern and western sectors and the coordination with UNIFIL.
Then, Prime Minister Hassan Diab delivered the following speech:
"I am visiting you today to check on you and to support all of your great efforts to preserve stability in South Lebanon and to protect the people of the South.
"Here, you represent the State, the legitimacy and the interest of the people in terms of security and stability. Therefore, you have a great duty; I know that you are qualified for this position, because the Army is the safety valve that protects stability.
"I call on you to be in the image of your wise leadership and your dedicated leader, thus, to consider the facts carefully, preserve your compatriots, protect your homeland, defend legitimacy and represent the State’s prestige.
"I salute each and every one of you: command, officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers.
"May God protect you, and protect Lebanon
"Long Live Lebanon!"
Prime Minister Hassan Diab signed the Book of Honor. Then, Brigadier General al-Qobayati offered PM Diab a souvenir gift, which is an old communications device from the remnants of the Israeli enemy, as well as souvenir shields to Minister of Defense and LAF Commander.
Afterwards, Diab and the accompanying delegation left to Naqoura and headed to UNIFIL headquarters, where they were received by UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander General Stefano Del Col. After the honor ceremony, PM Diab signed the Book of Honor. Then, the Prime Minister exchanged souvenirs with General Del Col, and delivered the following speech:
"Around forty-two years ago today, the United Nations Forces were established in Southern Lebanon, following a 1978 Israeli aggression. At that time, Resolution 425 was issued, calling on the Israeli enemy to withdraw from Lebanon. However, the occupation lasted 22 years, until the Lebanese liberated most of their land and defeated the enemy on May 25, 2000 which has become a public holiday in Lebanon to be called the “Resistance and Liberation Day”.
"For forty-two years, the archives of the United Nations Forces in Lebanon were filled with minutes documenting Israeli violations of international resolutions and of the Lebanese sovereignty, while Lebanon has been respecting international legitimacy, reiterating its commitment to the United Nations authority and reaffirming its attachment to the role of its forces in Lebanon.
"Your presence here is not only out of international will, but also out of a Lebanese desire; it is embraced by the upstanding people of the South.
"We are committed to the implementation of Resolution 1701, and we call on the United Nations to impose obligations on the Israeli enemy to commit to this resolution, for it has been utterly disregarding international resolutions, has not been committed to implementing Resolution 1701, has been violating Lebanese sovereignty by land, sea and air, has been threatening Lebanon, has been professing its hostile practices in front of the world and has been suggesting to the international public opinion that it is stronger than the United Nations, Security Council and relevant resolutions.
"From here, from UNIFIL headquarters, I launch an appeal to the world to enforce the implementation of United Nations Resolution 1701 by the Israeli enemy and its withdrawal from occupied Lebanese lands and waters, because the continuation of this land and sea occupation prevents stabilization of the situation.
"Here in Naqoura, this 1800 meter-land is ours; this is Lebanese land facing Lebanese waters. In other areas, there are still occupied lands; we will not give up a grain of our homeland’s soil.
"Lebanon is committed to the implementation of Resolution 1701, to the role of United Nations forces and to the preservation of its mandate and number of personnel without any modification, for it remains necessary and urgently needed in light of the Israeli enemy's continuous attempts to destabilize Southern Lebanon and its continued violations of Lebanese sovereignty by land, sea and air.
"I also reaffirm the importance of the continued coordination and close cooperation between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army, thereby facilitating the UNIFIL’s mission and fostering the confidence of the people of the South.
"I take the occasion of the 42th UNIFIL anniversary to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers who have served and have been serving in Lebanon since 1978, to those who are still alive, to the martyrs who fell in the performance of their humanitarian duty and to those who have passed away.
"The good people of the South are grateful for you for having their back; the people of southern Lebanon have paid the highest price of Israeli occupation and attacks.
"Lebanon expresses its deep gratitude to the friendly countries contributing to UNIFIL staff members, embodying their commitment to the values of peace enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
"I also express my appreciation for the efforts made by HE United Nations Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres, for always standing by Lebanon’s side and helping the country overcome the challenges it faces.
"From this place, I extend my greetings to General Del Col and to UNIFIL’s Command, officers and soldiers.
"I am here today to stand firm beside you, as you are living far away from your homelands and families, bearing the responsibility of protecting international decisions and coming under great pressure from the Israeli enemy challenging your role and impeding your mission.
"You are here in Lebanon, embraced by the Lebanese people and by the good and honest people of the South who respect your presence and value your sacrifices; for the blood of UNIFIL martyrs has been mixed with the blood of Lebanese martyrs in the heroic South, and the Qana massacre makes an example of history.
"Greetings to you from Lebanon that respects your role and values your efforts.
"Long Live Lebanon!"
For his part, UNIFIL’s HoM/FC General Stefano Del Col, made the following remarks:
"Good morning ladies and gentlemen!
"It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome His Excellency the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Dr. Diab, to his first visit to the UNIFIL Headquarters today.
"At the outset, let me express my gratitude to the Prime Minister, his Government and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for continued cooperation in the implementation of UNIFIL’s mandate. This cooperation is at the centre of our collective success in maintaining nearly 14 years of calm in south Lebanon. Together, we have to build on this long period of unprecedented stability to be able to carry out our mandate effectively and without obstacles. I am very pleased that the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the LAF Commander honor us with their visit.
"Your presence among us will greatly encourage UNIFIL peacekeepers as well as our strategic partners in the LAF to further build on the steady gains in the security situation since the cessation of hostilities came into effect.
"I look forward to working with the Government of Lebanon, especially the LAF, in the full implementation of resolution 1701 and in addressing any outstanding issues.
"UNIFIL’s confidence-building tools, including the Tripartite forum and its liaison and coordination mechanisms, are at the disposal of the parties. Availing of these mechanisms is imperative for preventing and de-escalating tensions on the ground.
"I would also like to commend the Prime Minister’s strong and decisive leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As the Head of UNIFIL, I feel proud that our peacekeepers are assisting and supporting the local communities in south Lebanon, from the very beginning of the outbreak, in their efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
"Once again, I would like to welcome the Prime Minister and his delegation to UNIFIL. I wish him a very good and fruitful trip in south Lebanon.
"Thank you. Shukran!"
Before concluding his visit to the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura, Prime Minister Diab headed with UNIFIL Commander and the accompanying delegation to the meeting room where PM Diab listened to a detailed briefing about the role and tasks carried out by UNIFIL in southern Lebanon.