Global perspective Human stories

Annan recommends extension of UN force in Golan Heights

Annan recommends extension of UN force in Golan Heights

With the situation in the Israel-Syria sector "generally quiet" but still lacking a political resolution, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today recommended that the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force there be extended for six months.

"The situation in the Middle East is very tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached," Mr. Annan says in a report to the Security Council, which recommends that the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), set to expire on 30 June, be extended through 31 December 2005.

"Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential," he said.

He added, however, that troop-contributing Governments were owed some $13 million and called on all Member States to pay their assessments in full.

UNDOF was established in May 1974 to monitor the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire in the Golan Heights. As of 6 June 2005, it had 1,028 troops from Austria, Canada, Japan, Nepal, Poland and Slovakia and was assisted by 57 military observers from the UN Troop Supervision Organization (UNTSO).

According to the report, in the past six months there were only two incidents of crossing the ceasefire line. During the period, UNDOF helped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with passage of 58 students through the area of separation, as well as, on an exceptional basis, 4,028 tons of apples from the Israeli side to the Syrian side.

It also provided protection for a wedding, as well as medical treatment, on request, to the local population. It remained available to help the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to promote landmine awareness among the civilians living in the area, the report said.

The Security Council is scheduled to start considering action on UNDOF Wednesday.