United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due in Beirut
today to discuss the deployment of the UN peacekeeping force in
southern Lebanon next month. His trip will also take him to Israel,
the occupied Palestinian territory and other countries in the
region to seek the "constructive engagement of all the
Annan's meeting with European Union foreign ministers in
Brussels late last week ended up in a firm pledge from the European
nations to provide up to 6,900 extra soldiers for the peacekeeping
force. The EU's commitment has boosted the UN Secretary-General's
confidence in starting to "put together a credible force."
A successful deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon
(UNIFIL) will make it possible to transform the cessation of
hostilities into a durable ceasefire.
Annan's call to deploy some of these soldiers within days is
understandable as the cessation of hostilities remains fragile.
Providing the backbone to the force, Europe will play a major new
political role in the Middle East.
Support from other parts of the world reveals good diplomacy of
the Secretary-General. He has commitments from troops from
Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. A clear point Annan made in
Brussels about the UNIFIL troops' mission is necessary.
The UN peacekeepers' mission will be tasked with monitoring the
cessation of hostilities, helping ensure humanitarian access to
civilians and the safe return of displaced persons, and supporting
the Lebanese government forces as they deploy in the south and
enforce their responsibilities under the Resolution 1701. The
UNIFIL troops are not going to disarm members of Hezbollah, which
can only be done by way of political agreement, rather than
While soliciting troops from the countries around the world, the
UN needs to help Lebanese refugees return home. The month-long
conflict has left the displaced persons a tough road to home. With
tens of thousands of homes and hundreds of kilometers of road
damaged or destroyed, many of them are staying homeless.
While Lebanon has become the focus of the international
attention, the situation in Gaza should not be ignored. The UN
Relief and Works Agency warned that a lack of access in and out of
the Gaza Strip is forcing its operation there to come to a
standstill, as shortages of food, fuel and construction supplies
jeopardize every element of its relief effort.
Will this part of the Middle East come higher on the agenda of
the international effort after Lebanon?
Annan's travels in the Middle East are an appropriate approach,
and co-operation and support from all players are needed.
(China Daily August 28, 2006)