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Annan recommends extending UN force in Israel-Syria sector

Annan recommends extending UN force in Israel-Syria sector

Describing the situation in the Middle East as "potentially dangerous" pending a comprehensive settlement, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended extending for six months the United Nations operation supervising the disengagement of Syrian and Israeli forces.

In a just-released report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan states that while the situation in the Israeli-Syrian sector has remained generally quiet, the continued presence of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) -- first deployed in 1974 -- remains essential. He notes that both Syria and Israel have agreed to the proposed extension, which would carry the Force through 30 November.

Commenting on the general need to resolve the current Middle East crisis, the Secretary-General writes, "I hope that determined efforts will be made by all concerned to tackle the problem in all its aspects, with a view to arriving at a just and durable peace settlement, as called for by the Security Council in its resolution 338 (1973)."

That text called for peace talks and reaffirmed an earlier benchmark Council resolution -- 242 of 1967 -- which requires the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territories and an end to all claims of belligerency, as well as an acknowledgement of the right of all States in the region to live in peace. Together, resolutions 242 and 338 are considered the basis for an overall settlement in the Middle East.

In recommending the UNDOF extension, the Secretary-General draws attention to the current funding shortfall faced by the Force, which is owed $22.8 million in unpaid dues.

The Security Council is expected to discuss the proposed extension before the expiration of UNDOF's current mandate on 30 May.