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Finland doubles UN peacekeeping commitment in Lebanon

Finland sent 160 soldiers to Lebanon last week, more than doubling its commitment to the UNIFIL peacekeeping programme there. The increased presence is in response to a request from France after the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015, and will free up French soldiers currently serving in Lebanon for reassignment.

Suomalaisia ja irlantilaisia rauhanturvaajia.
Finnish and Irish peacekeepers in southern Lebanon in May 2012. Image: Thomas Litchfield / Puolustusvoimat

Finland has doubled its commitment to the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a UN-led peacekeeping operation. An additional 160 soldiers will increase the overall strength of the Finnish contingent in Lebanon to approximately 340 peacekeepers, who will serve from 1 April 2017 to 31 August 2018. UNIFIL's mandate is renewed by United Nations Security Council annually.

Finland participates in the operation as part of a Finnish-Irish battalion and as part of a French-led Force Commanders Reserve Battalion.

The decision to increase Finland's presence in the operation was in response to a French request for international assistance in November 2015, after terrorist attacks in Paris. The Finnish team will replace a French company, enabling reallocation of the soldiers to other areas.

UNIFIL was created in 1978 after an Israeli invasion, to assist the Lebanese population create a safe and stable environment and see that humanitarian aid is effectively delivered.

The Finnish Defence Forces says participation in the operation supports development of the international crisis management capability of military reservists.

Decades of crisis management

Finland has taken part in over 30 peacekeeping operations since 1956, with units deployed in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to EU missions in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia and Mali, among others.

According to Finnish law, the maximum simultaneous strength of the peacekeeping forces is limited to 2,000 soldiers. 

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