A first contingent of Italian peacekeeping troops has set off for Lebanon, the main bulk of the force is to leave tomorrow. Italy will be sending 2500 soldiers. They will form part of the 15-thousand-strong United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. With the departure of European troops there is also a renewed diplomatic push to bring lasting peace to the troubled region.
Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni is in Berlin where she has been meeting with her German counterpart. “So the role of the international peacekeeping force is to help the Lebanese government and also to implement, fully, completely, and I also hope quickly resolution 1701, including the deployment of the Lebanese army to the south part of Lebanon, enforcement of the arms embargo in order to prevent re-armament of Hizbollah in the future,” she said.
In France, President Jacques Chirac called on Israel to end its blockade of Lebanon and called for an urgent meeting of international negotiators. “The diplomatic process needs to be re-launched immediately. I would like to have a meeting of the Quartet very soon,” he said.
France is to take the initial leadership of UNIFIL and is contributing 2000 troops. The EU has said it could be several months before the full force is deployed.