Armed Forces Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso dispatched the first ever Indonesian warship to join the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNFIL, on Friday (20/03).
The newly-acquired Sigma-class corvette KRI Diponegoro set sail from the Navy’s Sea Transportation Command headquarters in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, during a ceremony attended by the military’s top brass and Lebanese Ambassador to Indonesia Victor Zmeter.
“This is the first ever deployment of Indonesian Navy’s fleet to take part in the Unifil mission in Lebanon,” Djoko said, adding that the Garuda 28A-A/Unifil contingent would join European naval forces from Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Germany and Turkey. The warship is expected to stay in Lebanon for six months.
According to Djoko, the mission was in line with the country’s constitution.
“The preamble of our Constitution calls for Indonesia’s active participation in keeping world peace and order, and we have been doing that since the 1950s,” Djoko said, adding that one of the roles expected from the 100-crew member warship, led by Lt. Col. Arsyad Abdullah, was to safeguard maritime security in Lebanese waters.
While en route to Lebanon, the warship would also add muscle to security efforts in pirate-invested waters off of Somalia, Djoko said.
However, he said that the ship would not be involved in efforts to release 11 Indonesian sailors who have been held as hostage by Somali pirates since December.
Lebanese Ambassador to Indonesia Victor Zmeter sent the Indonesian contingent off with a blessing.
“May the Almighty protect them because I know the route there is particularly risky since they have to sail through the Somali waters. I wish they would accomplish their mission in a very peaceful way,” Zmeter said, adding that the Lebanese people would welcome the maritime task force and appreciated Indonesia’s friendship and contribution to their country.
Navy spokesman First Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said that the Beirut-bound warship would sail via Cochin in India, Salalah in Oman, and Port Said in Mesir, covering a distance of 6,555 nautical miles (12,140 kilometers).
The task force’s main role is to provide support for UN resolution 1701 aimed at blocking dangerous weapons and related materials from entering Lebanon. More than 1,100 Indonesian soldiers are already participating in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, which comprises a total of 13,000 personnel.
Source: The JakartaGlobe (20/03/09)