President Kersti Kaljulaid and commander of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) Gen. Riho Terras visited the Estonian troops currently part of the UNIFIL mission at the Lebanese-Israeli border. Kaljulaid also met with the Lebanese president and other officials last week.
“It is important to me to meet our soldiers and speak with them directly,” Kaljulaid said. “It’s one thing to read about something on paper, but something very different to see the Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel with my own eyes, and how Estonian soldiers are keeping the peace here.”
The president added that the Lebanese president and the officials she met on her visit all confirmed the importance of the Estonian contribution to the area.
Kaljulaid met with Lebanese president Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday to discuss issues concerning security and the establishment of a digital society. She also met with the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri.
Part of her two-day visit was also a meeting with Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, who is in command of the United Nations’ UNIFIL peacekeeping mission. The Estonian military personnel serving on the mission is part of the Irish-Finnish Battalion stationed along the Blue Line defined by the UN in 2000.
Kaljulaid and Terras also visited the Estonian ESTPLA-22 infantry platoon. ESTPLA-22, which arrived in the country at the end of November, is based at UN Position 2-45 in At Tiri, Southern Lebanon. Among the duties of the Estonian peacekeepers are day- and nighttime patrols.
UN units, including the Estonian platoon, likewise conduct patrols — both motorized and by foot — both by day and at night in their areas of responsibility, man lookout points and fulfill other peacekeeping duties.
Together with staff officers, a total of nearly 40 members of the Estonian Defence Forces are currently serving in Lebanon, of which the majority are made up of a platoon-sized unit consisting primarily of members of the Staff and Support Company of the professional Scouts Battalion.
The Estonian platoon is serving in the Irish-Finnish Battalion's A Company together with members of the Finnish Defence Forces, and their area of responsibility includes a number of bigger and smaller settlements that are home to nearly 30,000 people during the summer season.
The Irish-Finnish Battalion is the only international battalion serving on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission. A total of 40 countries contribute to UNIFIL; ESTPLA-22 is the fifth Estonian unit to serve in Lebanon.
Editor: Dario Cavegn