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Secretary-General calls for six-month extension of UN force in Golan Heights

Secretary-General calls for six-month extension of UN force in Golan Heights

The situation in the Golan Heights has been “generally quiet” recently, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report, which warns that the overall region remains tense and a United Nations force observing the ceasefire between Israel and Syria should stay on for another six months.

The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been in place since 1974, should have its mandate extended until at least 30 June next year, Mr. Ban writes in his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the Force. He notes that both Syria and Israel have already voiced their agreement.

The situation in the Middle East is likely to remain tense “unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached,” he states, calling for a just and durable settlement in line with Council resolutions on the issue.

During the period under review UNDOF supervised its area of operation in the Golan Heights through a mixture of patrols and fixed positions, and also carried out regular inspections of equipment and Force levels. Both sides “generally cooperated” with UNDOF as it conducted its mandated tasks, although they also denied inspection teams access to some positions and imposed restrictions on the Force’s freedom of movement.

UNDOF staff also helped the International Committee of the Red Cross with the passage of people through the area of separation between Israeli and Syrian forces. In the past six months, the Force assisted in the crossing of 637 students, 500 pilgrims, five civilians and one bride, while it provided health services to 243 villagers and medical treatment to 116 civilians.

At the same time, Mr. Ban’s report draws attention to the growing financial shortfall faced by UNDOF. As of the end of August, some $24 million is owed to the countries that contribute troops to the Force: Austria, Canada, India, Japan, Poland and Slovakia.