Speech by Foreign Minister Baerbock to the German Bundestag during its examination of the Federal Government’s motion to continue the participation of German armed forces in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

07.06.2024 - Speech

A drone that explodes on a football pitch, immediately followed by a second attack as people rush to help – one dead and almost a dozen injured in the village of Hurfeish in northern Israel. At the same time, rockets and drones are setting the fields and forests alight – causing fires that have already destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest and farmland in Israel and Lebanon. These are recent headlines from the border area between the two countries. The situation in this area, too, has dangerously deteriorated since Hamas’ heinous attack on Israel on 7 October 2023.

In January, I visited our German service members on the Bundeswehr frigate that is deployed off the coast of Lebanon as part of UNIFIL. One of the crew on board told me how much the situation has changed for him and his fellow service members since 7 October. How they see rockets fired towards Israel by Hezbollah almost every day since then, how close Hezbollah’s launchpads have moved to the UNIFIL troops’ positions – and how close Israel’s defensive strikes come as a result. I had in fact wanted to visit the UNIFIL position myself, but that was not possible due to the security situation. Our German service members’ colleagues from the other UNIFIL partner countries are now almost completely unable to carry out patrols on land.

Since January – and above all in the last few days and weeks – the attacks have once again redoubled in intensity. In May, Israeli NGOs recorded an average of ten Hezbollah attacks per day. Several hundred people in Israel and Lebanon have lost their lives due to this bombardment in recent months. The region is currently not safe for anyone, Israeli or Lebanese. Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the Blue Line have therefore left their villages and towns and fled towards the interior of their country. In concrete terms, this means that children have had to leave their schools, leave their playing fields, leave their friends behind. Women, men, families have had to leave their houses, their everyday lives, had to abandon their fields and their workplaces. For months now they have all been living out of suitcases – hoping that they will be able to return, but at the same time constantly worrying that the violence will escalate further.

In recent months we have all seen how great the danger of escalation is, the danger that the war in the Middle East which was triggered by Hamas will engulf the wider region. The Federal Government is therefore doing everything in its power, not least with regard to northern Israel and the border with Lebanon, the Blue Line, to ensure – and I would like to make this very clear – that the cynical strategy of Hamas and above all of its supporters does not succeed.

We know, as hard as it is at the current time, that the key to lasting security for the people in this region now lies above all in Gaza. The three-phase plan presented by US President Biden sets out how, in a first phase, a release of the hostages and a ceasefire can finally be achieved. Beyond this, further steps are then possible – steps two and three in his three-phase plan. The Federal Government is campaigning ceaselessly for this – as I have made clear in recent days – in our talks with our European, American and above all Arab partners, and of course also in our non-stop dialogue with our partners in Israel.

And yes, this is incredibly painstaking, difficult work. When we think we’ve taken a step forward, then something else happens and we find ourselves moving three steps back. But I maintain – as I have done over the last seven and a half months – that every step counts. By which I also mean that every step towards this three-phase plan counts.

UNIFIL has a central role to play in these efforts. UNIFIL blue helmets patrol possible Hezbollah rocket launchpads together with the Lebanese armed forces. They report on breaches of the ceasefire agreement. This is essential, even if we rarely read about it in the news. All of it is taking place day in, day out. And it, too, is part of our efforts at diplomacy. UNIFIL also remains the only direct line of communication between the Israeli and Lebanese armed forces. Now in particular, when every single miscalculation can cause the situation to escalate, we see how important that is.

And so I would like to express my thanks for the contribution that our troops make within the UNIFIL mission.

This mission serves the security of the people of Lebanon and the security of the people of Israel. It makes a difference.

I have just spoken once again to our partners on the Israeli side. They urgently want to see UNIFIL play a greater role. We will continue to discuss this, too, with our partners.

On that note, I thank you for your support and ask you to approve the mandate.


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