The acting Defence Minister, Margarita Robles, held a videoconference with the head of the Spanish contingent deployed in Lebanon to learn about the latest news on the Spanish mission at UNIFIL, where more than 650 Spanish soldiers are deployed.
Robles has praised “the solid image of the Spanish mission in Lebanon throughout all these years”, becoming “a benchmark for the United Nations in peacekeeping work” and congratulated Brigadier General Luis Jesús Fernández Herrero, head of the BRILIB XXXIX, for the work of the entire contingent, which will return to Spain at the end of November.
To questions from the Minister of Defence about the situation in the country and the evolution of the ‘Libre Hidaldo’ mission, General Fernández Herrero responded from the Miguel de Cervantes Base, near Marjayún, that despite the political and economic instability that lives the country, the number of incidents on the border line that they monitor remains the same as always, “perhaps a little more intense.”
In this sense, Robles has stressed that “the political crisis there is very difficult and complicated”, to which has been added the tension in Israel, “which affects the mission in security matters”.
Both the minister and the BRILIB general, who also leads the Multinational Brigade that controls the Eastern Sector, have agreed that “in the long term, Lebanon will have to face and solve its ethnic-religious diversity, and fundamentally the problem with Hezbollah,” which controls parts of the country with strong public support.
General Herrero currently commands 660 soldiers, 12 civil guards and 8 civilians (interpreters). Of these, the bulk is deployed in the Eastern Sector within the Multinational Brigade, led by Spain, and the rest, up to 49 soldiers, at the Naqoura Headquarters.
Relations with the population
The head of the BRILIB, who has already been stationed in the country four times, has referred in positive terms to the link between the Spanish troops and the civilian population, “excellent relations with the Christian, Sunni and Druze sides, but not with the Shiites, which, while not being bad, is neutral”, noting that “activities to support the population (civilian-military) greatly contribute to this situation of acceptance”.
Regarding the incidents, he has reported that the main sources of tension are, as always, on the Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel. “They are always in the same place, in the Chebba farms, at the shepherds’ crossings, from time to time there is an exchange of shots”, but he added that “the mission has not essentially changed much”.
Minister Robles has also inquired about the Spanish teaching program in collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes, which, according to the head of the BRILIB, “has given such good results that there are many people close to us, not only Christians but Druze, who they speak very good Spanish”, and which is still running as well as when it started in 2006.
Spain has participated in the UNIFIL mission (English acronym for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) since 2006, with the aim of maintaining peace and security on the borders between Lebanon and Israel, supporting the Lebanese Army in its activities to seize control of security and the Government of the country in the exercise of its authority.
Currently, the head of the mission and commander of the UNIFIL Force, a mission that the United Nations is preparing to renew at the end of the month, is the Spanish Major General Aroldo Lázaro, in charge of some 10,000 peacekeepers from 45 countries.