1 February 2010 A senior United Nations official today welcomed the release of a Lebanese citizen apprehended by Israeli Defense Forces on Sunday in a disputed area of land located on the border between southern Lebanon and the Golan Heights, announcing that the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is conducting its own inquiry into the episode.
“We are pleased to say that early this morning this Lebanese citizen was released and has returned to Lebanon,” said Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams, referring to the incident, which took place in the Shebaa Farms area.
“UNIFIL has launched an investigation to establish the exact circumstances of this incident,” Mr. Williams said in a statement following a meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami in Beirut.
Mr. Williams said he had a positive meeting with the Foreign Minister, which provided an opportunity to follow up on their discussion a few weeks ago, their first since the new Government was formed late last year.
Their talks included the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which called for a full cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah and greatly increased the UN peacekeeping force – known as UNIFIL – in the conflict zone.
In addition to expanding UNIFIL, which currently has nearly 13,000 military personnel, the resolution called for respect of the so-called Blue Line separating the Israeli and Lebanese sides, disarming militias including Hizbollah, and an end to arms smuggling, among other measures.
“I informed the Minister that the twelfth report of the Secretary-General on this resolution is due to the Security Council at the end of this month,” said Mr. Williams.
“In that regard we discussed the situation in south Lebanon,” he added, referring to the region where Israel fought a 34-day war with Hizbollah in 2006.
The UN envoy briefed Mr. Shami on his talks last week with Israeli officials who confirmed their commitment to the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon.
“Much more needs to be done,” stressed Mr. Williams. “We are hoping that progress can be made in order to move from a cessation of hostilities to a more enduring ceasefire.”
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