Spanish PM emphasises support for Unifil during Lebanon visit after death of Irish soldier

Pedro Sanchez meets troops at Spanish base in southern Lebanon and holds talks with caretaker PM Najib Mikati

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visits soldiers at the Miguel de Cervantes base in the southern Lebanese town of Marjayoun. AFP
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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has emphasised his support for the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon after an Irish soldier was killed in the country this month.

Mr Sanchez made the comments after holding talks with Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miktati during a visit to Beirut.

Spain is one of the largest contributors to the peacekeeping mission, with 664 troops from the country stationed in Lebanon.

Unifil commander Maj Gen Aroldo Lazaro is Spanish.

Mr Sanchez repeated his country's "willingness to support the work of Unifil" in southern Lebanon.

His visit to Beirut comes two weeks after Irish peacekeeper Pvt Sean Rooney, 24, was killed when his convoy came under fire.

Investigations into the killing are under way and a suspect has reportedly been handed over to the army.

The shooting happened in the village of Al Aqbiya, where Iran-backed Hezbollah is highly influential. The group denies involvement in the attack.

Mr Mikati told Mr Sanchez that the Lebanese authorities would not hesitate to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mr Sanchez also visited Spanish soldiers at the Miguel de Cervantes base in Marjayoun, southern Lebanon.

“Your participation in this United Nations mission in Lebanon is a tangible expression of our country's contribution to world peace,” he told the soldiers.

“Your daily effort is aimed at providing well-being to the entire Lebanese society.

"With your work you contribute to saving lives, to improve the present and future of the Lebanese and, above all, to give a horizon of an expectation of peace to the new generations of Lebanese.”

French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu is expected in Lebanon on Friday to show his support for the country's peacekeepers.

About 11,000 UN peacekeepers are stationed in Lebanon, where the interim force has overseen a ceasefire with Israel.

More than 300 Unifil troops have been killed since 1978.

Updated: December 29, 2022, 1:55 PM
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