Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the safe release of the four United Nations peacekeepers captured last week while on patrol in the Golan Heights.
In a statement issued by his Spokesman, Mr. Ban welcomed the release of the four peacekeepers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) who had been detained on 7 May by armed elements near Al Jamlah.
“He appreciates the assistance of Qatar and of others involved in securing their safe release,” the statement added.
The Secretary-General again emphasized to all parties the impartiality of United Nations peacekeepers. “UNDOF is on the ground to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria," he said, calling on all parties to respect the mission's freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel
This latest abduction was a replay of a similar incident that occurred on 6 March, when 21 UNDOF peacekeepers were captured in the same location by armed elements of the Syrian opposition. They were held four days before being released safely.
In the wake of that incident, the Security Council issued a Presidential Statement on 27 March expressing its “grave concern” at the presence of the Syrian and opposition troops inside the demilitarized area of the Golan Heights, and called on both sides to respect the blue helmets' freedom of movement and security.
That statement followed a briefing to the Council by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the security risks and operational challenges facing UNDOF.
Mr. Ladsous told journalists after the closed-door session that UN peacekeepers had reduced their activities in response to the presence of armed groups from the Syrian conflict and have taken additional security measures, including more frequent use of armoured vehicles.
Peacekeepers serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war. In December, the Security Council extended the mission's mandate for another six months, until 30 June 2013.