Force Commander's announcement on implementation of SG's recommendations

27 Aug 2013

Force Commander's announcement on implementation of SG's recommendations

August 23, 2013 - On 27 June, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 2108 renewing the mandate of UNDOF for another period of six months until 31 December 2013. The Security Council stressed the need to enhance the safety and security of UNDOF, including Observer Group Golan, personnel and endorsed the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his last report (S/2013/345), in view of the evolving security situation in the UNDOF area of operations,

"to implement further adjustments to the posture and operations of the mission, as well as to implement additional mitigation measures to enhance the self-defence capabilities of UNDOF, including maximizing the Force strength and improving its self-defence equipment, within the parameters set forth in the Protocol to the Disengagement Agreement."

UNDOF continues to regularly review and update its security measures and contingency plans and carries out the necessary training and exercises of personnel, ensuring that all military and civilian personnel are adequately prepared to cope with the difficult security situation.

On 6 June, the Government of Austria decided to withdraw its 377-strong contingent of peacekeepers from UNDOF citing the "continuing deterioration of the situation in the area" as the main reason for its decision, which came in the wake of the fighting that took place the same day between armed opposition fighters and the Syrian armed forces in the area of Al Qunaytra, in the Area of Separation, in the course of which opposition forces stormed and took control of the Bravo gate staffed by Syrian liaison officers. Unique in UN peacekeeping, the Austrian contingent has served the Force since its inception in 1974 and formed its backbone for many years. The Government's decision ended a 39-year relationship between Austrian peacekeepers, many of whom served multiple tours of duty, and the population on the Golan Heights. Austrian soldiers have performed their duties in the service of peace on the Golan Heights in an outstanding manner. All civilian and military personnel of UNDOF pay tribute to our fellow Austrian peacekeepers. We will miss their professionalism as well as their camaraderie.

Tireless efforts by UN Headquarters resulted in new troop contributors having stepped forward to fill the gap. Between 28 June and 30 July, 501 Fijian peacekeepers joined UNDOF, making Fiji the largest UNDOF contingent. Well-trained and experienced peacekeepers they fill positions left vacant as a result of the withdrawal of the Austrian, as well as Japanese and Croatian contingents, which left a few months earlier. A 130-strong contingent from Nepal arrived on the Golan Heights on 20 and 21 July. They deployed to the UNDOF positions on Mt Hermon, relieving their Philippine fellow peacekeepers who had taken over those positions upon the departure of the Austrians at the end of June, and provide personnel for the Headquarters Company until the expected arrival, in mid-September, of approximately 120 Irish soldiers who will form UNDOF's Force Reserve Company. UNDOF is grateful for the Governments stepping forward and sending their troops to the Golan Heights to carry out the ever more important tasks of the Mission to maintain the ceasefire and to supervise the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and Protocol between Israel and Syria.

UNDOF continues to face the impact of the ongoing Syrian conflict in its area of responsibility. With the reinforcements UNDOF has received, I feel confident, however, that UNDOF is well-equipped and well-prepared to face the challenges this situation poses.