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Operation Emirates Solidarity for Demining South Lebanon launched

posted on 27/10/2001: 2870 views

A project aimed at boosting demining efforts in south Lebanon has been jointly launched by the Lebanese Ministry of Defence and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Lebanon in cooperation with the Office of the UN Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Southern Lebanon.

The launching of "Operation Emirates Solidarity," was announced during a press conference at the UN House, Beirut, which was attended by Lebanon's Minister of Defence, Khalil Hrawi, UAE Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Omran, and the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon (PRSG) Staffan de Mistura and other representatives of international donor organizations involved in demining south Lebanon. Hrawi conveyed the message of President Emile Lahoud, calling for the quick implementation of the project in line with the national objectives of rehabilitating South Lebanon and assisting the local population to return to their homes and fields and resume rebuilding and producing in peace and calm.

The minister paid tribute to Lieutenant Majed Kazem who was killed during demining operations few days ago. He expressed the gratitude of the government and the people of Lebanon to President H.H Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for the $50 million he donated to help implement this important project. He thanked the UN and all its bodies as well as all donor countries for their generous contributions to this project. Hrawi announced during today's conference that the United Arab Emirates and the Lebanese government had signed several days ago, in both Abu Dhabi and in Beirut, a memorandum of understanding, MoU, for the implementation of the 'Operation Emirates Solidarity.'

The MoU was signed on the UAE side by Lt. General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces, while Hrawi signed for the Lebanese side. Hrawi said Lebanon's National Demining Office, in accordance with the MoU, will promptly begin work on establishing a coordination cell in the South Lebanon town of in Tyre, with the participation of the UAE, the United Nations and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). "The coordination cell will be tasked with supervising the 'Operation Emirates Solidarity' in south Lebanon” the minister said, adding that a separate location would be set up in the southern village of Qana as a base for individuals working with various companies carrying out demining activities in the area in tandem with the mine clearing activities by the Lebanese Army in other areas of south Lebanon.

Hrawi noted that the Lebanese Government in coordination with the United Nations will also establish an International Support Group (ISG), an entity grouping together member states and UN bodies which had voiced their readiness to extend financial, technical or expertise support for the demining activities in south Lebanon during the demining workshop that took place in Lebanon last May. "The ISG, in cooperation with international organizations, will focus on identifying sources for financing the demining efforts, launching awareness campaigns on the dangers of landmines, building institutional capabilities, assisting the victims of landmines and collecting data among other tasks,” Hrawi said, adding that the ISG may hold its first meeting as early as next week.

The Lebanese Minister said Lebanon, which had succeeded in liberating its land from Israeli occupation was now determined, with the assistance of the UN and friendly states, to liberate its land from the landmines left behind by Israel in South Lebanon and the Western Beqaa. Mohammad Omran, the UAE Ambassador, said the launching of the "Operation" marked an important day in the history of bilateral relations between the UAE and Lebanon. Omran noted that the ongoing cooperation among the UAE, Lebanon and the UN represents a model of humanitarian international relations.

The UAE ambassador expressed the hope that the initiative of Sheikh Zayed to help finance the demining efforts in south Lebanon would benefit the residents of that area. He then underscored the need for utmost efforts from all sides, including the UN, to ensure the swift implementation of the project.

In a statement, De Mistura conveyed the UN Secretary General's great appreciation for the remarkable contribution of US$50 million by the UAE to help Lebanon deal with the scourge of landmines in the south through Operation Emirates Solidarity. He said that the true liberation of the south would not be real until something was done about the "far too many silent soldiers waiting to indiscriminately kill and maim innocent persons”. He expressed his sadness to see that two other persons were killed in the past few days through landmine incidents. "It is imperative that these mines be removed and that normal day- to-day life without fear returns fully to the south,” he said.

De Mistura noted that landmines are a problem around the world in many current and former war zones. "It is rare to find a single donor that can so dramatically influence the course of freeing captive populations from the threat of these mines,” he said. "We are truly fortunate to have this commitment from the UAE as it will accelerate the demining process from what could have taken decades to just a few years. This is a challenge to all of us and above all to Lebanon. It is now up to Lebanon to ensure that demining proceeds swiftly and effectively,” he added.

De Mistura stressed that demining alone is not the first most important step in rehabilitating the south. "At the same time, many other actions should be taken to maximize the benefit of Operation Emirates Solidarity,” he said. He welcomed wholeheartedly the convening of the first meeting of the ISG, which will bring together other generous donors who are already or are intending to make an important contribution to demining activities aimed at rehabilitating southern Lebanon, "This is the true UN spirit, involving as many UN member states as possible and, Lebanon, we hope, could become an example of such international cooperation,” he concluded. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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