SECRETARY-GENERAL PROPOSES SIX-MONTH EXTENSION OF UN FORCE IN GOLAN HEIGHTS
15 June - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Golan Heights be extended for another six months, until 31 December, deeming its continued presence in the region as essential.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was established in May 1974 following the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces after the 1973 war.
In his report on the activities of the Force, which was made public today, Mr. Ban says that the situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet.
“Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached,” he writes.
Noting that there have been no negotiations between Israel and Syria since the discontinuation in December 2008 of indirect peace talks initiated by Turkey, Mr. Ban encourages the parties to resume peace negotiations as soon as possible.
“Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential,” he states, adding that both Israel and Syria have given their agreement to a further extension of the Force's mandate.
The report mentions that, as in the past, both sides denied inspection teams access to some of their positions and imposed restrictions on the Force's freedom of movement.
“It is hoped that both sides will continue to make efforts to ease the limitations on the mobility of the Force and facilitate the movement of its supplies,” Mr. Ban adds.
As of May, UNDOF comprised of 1,043 troops from six countries and is led by Major General Natalio Ecarma III of the Philippines, who assumed command of the Force on 1 March.