24 May 2024, 12:04

Don't expect UN peacekeepers to stop wars, chief tells AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States, May 24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - The world cannot look
to UN peacekeepers as a way of stopping wars, whether in Gaza or other active
conflict zones, the department chief told AFP, citing the famous Blue
Helmets' inherent limitations.

A mission in the occupied Palestinian territories, for example, is only
"very, very, very hypothetical," Under Secretary-General for Peace Operations
Jean-Pierre Lacroix said.

The Arab League has called for such a deployment.

But Lacroix said all the basic conditions are missing: a ceasefire, an
agreement from warring sides to accept UN troops, and authorization from a
deeply divided UN Security Council.

UN Security Council members France and Russia are among those also discussing
a role for UN peacekeepers in Gaza, once Israel's military operation to
destroy the Hamas militant group winds down.

The idea would be to send troops through an existing UN peacekeeping
operation for the Middle East, known as UNTSO, which was set up in 1948 and
still has a small, unarmed contingent deployed in Lebanon.

This likewise seems highly speculative, not least because UNTSO is not armed.

"Peacekeeping has its limits," Lacroix said. And "imposing peace" is not part
of the UN troops' mandate.

UN peacekeeping missions have faced criticism, particularly in African
deployments, of failing to do enough to protect against armed extremists.

Lacroix said the world body, which will celebrate its annual International
Day of Blue Helmets on May 29, "of course needs to keep adapting."

But turning the UN troops -- trained soldiers who differentiate themselves
from warring forces by wearing the UN's pale blue helmets -- into a war-
fighting body is "not realistic or desirable."

"Imposing peace is... a synonym for waging war. Many states in the Security
Council would be opposed to that," Lacroix said.

- Partnering up -

Sometimes, peace requires "enforcement," he said, but this can be done in
partnership with other groupings that don't require actual UN boots on the

In Haiti, a Kenyan-led force -- authorized by the Security Council but not
deploying under the UN flag -- is due to arrive soon to impose order after
months of gang chaos.

"These are lessons that we learn," Lacroix said.

In another case, the Security Council last December passed a resolution
authorizing financial support for peacekeeping operations run by the African

"It is not about replacing one model with another" but of ensuring that the
international community is "better able to respond to a greater variety of
situations," Lacroix said.

And in an ever-more complicated landscape, UN peacekeeping forces sometimes
don't have a choice but to retreat.

In October 2023, UN soldiers evacuated their camp in the volatile north of
Mali amid jihadist and separatist fighting. Mali's military rulers, who took
over in 2020, had ordered out the UN, saying the peacekeepers had failed.

In April this year, UN peacekeepers left bases in the Democratic Republic of
Congo's restive South Jivu province after a more than 20-year presence.
Operations have continued in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri.

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