15 DECEMBER 2011


A criminal attack on a French convoy of UNIFIL outside the Lebanese Southern city of Tyre (Soor) was denounced by the U.N. Security Council, by the Lebanese government, and all parties of the Lebanese public spectrum.

Whatever its shortcomings, UNIFIL has contributed more than any outside element to the stability of Lebanon and to regaining the authority of the central government; despite obvious difficulties on the ground and challenges (like overflights) from across the border.

It may be said that the criminal attack was a message from one external party in the Middle East using proxies within Lebanon. Whoever the perpetrators and whatever the message, the Lebanese people remain fully appreciative of UNIFIL and thankful for its contributions since its establishment in March 1978. By now, international soldiers have mixed with the local population. They inter-married. They shared schools and hospitals -- and most of all, daily life and shared bread. France in particular has been closely linked to Lebanon throughout history. The emotional bond could not be broken by isolated criminals rented to provide conflict. All UNIFIL contributing countries are by now part of Lebanon's grateful institutional memory. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured during the recent attack. But both UNIFIL and the Lebanese authority will have to remain vigilant at this crucial period in Middle East history to jointly and firmly block any similar attempts.

Perhaps that may be one of the main points Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will discuss with the Lebanese officials when he visits Beirut mid-January.