UN renews Lebanon peacekeeping mission after dispute over troop movement

© Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday renewed the mandate for its peacekeeping force in Lebanon for another year after tense debate around the troops' freedom of movement.

The vote, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday but postponed for further negotiations, came only a few hours before the mission's authorization was set to expire.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in place since 1978, is tasked with creating a buffer between Israel and Lebanon, which are technically at war.

Thursday's resolution passed with 13 votes in favor and Russia and China abstaining, and keeps the force in place until August 31, 2024.

The mandate is largely identical to last year's agreement on allowing freedom of movement for the approximately 10,000 peacekeepers stationed in the country, a point which has been contested both by the Lebanese government and the powerful pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.

The text "urges all parties... to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL in all its operations and UNIFIL's access to the Blue Line in all its parts is fully respected and unimpeded."

The so-called Blue Line refers to the frontier demarcated by the UN in 2000 after Israeli troops withdrew from southern Lebanon.

"(Thursday's) text unfortunately did not reflect all of our concerns," Lebanon's UN representative Jeanne Mrad said.

Israel said Thursday it "welcomes" the reauthorization.

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