With the situation along the Israel-Syria ceasefire line “generally quiet” but still lacking a political resolution, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today recommended that the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights be extended for another 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 reiterated in a report to the Security Council, which recommends that the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), set to expire on 1 January 2006, be extended through 30 June of that year.
“Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential,” he said.
He added, however, that money owed to troop-contributing Governments had grown from $13 million to $22 million since his last report. He 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. As of 5 December, it had over 1,000 troops from Austria, Canada, Japan, Nepal, Poland and Slovakia and was assisted by 79 military observers from the UN Troop Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
According to the report, in the past six months the ceasefire was maintained, except in the Shab’a farms area, which experienced activity originated from the area of operation of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
During the period, UNDOF helped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with passage of 480 students and 488 religious pilgrims through the area of separation, as well as supervising the handover of a Syrian boy who had crossed the ceasefire line.
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 next Friday, 16 December.