France pushes efforts in Lebanon to prevent war between Hezbollah and Israel

France’s foreign minister said that he would discuss proposals with Lebanese officials on Sunday aimed at easing tensions between Hezbollah and Israel and preventing a war breaking out.

France has historical ties with Lebanon and earlier this year Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne proposed Hezbollah pulls back 10 km (6 miles) from the Israeli border while Israel would halt strikes in southern Lebanon.

The proposal has been discussed with partners including the US and Paris wants to keep up the momentum amid Israeli threats of a military operation in southern Lebanon.

Israel and Hezbollah have traded tit for tat strikes in recent months, but the exchanges have increased since Iran launched missiles on Israel in response to the killing of members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps’ overseas Quds Force in the Syrian capital Damascus.

More Israeli strikes hit southern Lebanon overnight close to the United Nations’ peace making force, according to military officials, just hours before Sejourne visited its headquarters in Naqoura.

“If I look at the situation today if there were not a war in Gaza, we could be talking about a war in southern Lebanon given the number of strikes and the impact on the area,” Sejourne said after speaking to UNIFIL commanders. “I will pass messages and make proposals to the authorities here to stabilize this zone and avoid a war.”

The UN peace making mission known as UNIFIL, as well as unarmed technical observers known as UNTSO, are stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the Blue Line. France has 700 troops who are part of the 10,000-strong UNIFIL.

Hezbollah has said it will not enter any concrete discussion until there is a ceasefire in Gaza, where the war between Israel and militant group Hamas has entered its sixth month.

Israel has said it wants to restore calm on its northern border so that thousands of displaced Israelis can return to the area without fear of rocket attacks.
In a letter addressed to the French embassy in Beirut in March, Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Beirut believed the French initiative would be a significant step towards peace and security in Lebanon and the broader region.

Local Lebanese media had reported the government had provided feedback to the French on the proposal but French officials say the responses so far have been general and lack consensus among the Lebanese.

Israel, where Sejourne will go later this week, has remained cautious on the French initiative.

French and UN officials say troops are unable to completely carry out their mandate given violations from both sides.

“We are still operating as normal with 4-6 patrols a day, but we are having to adapt to more strikes, sometimes very close to us,” said one UNIFIL solder speaking on condition of anonymity.

Related Articles

Back to top button