Filipino FM: Our peacekeepers should leave Golan

UN relocates peacekeepers after rebels kidnap Filipino members of force; assures UN will maintain presence along Syrian border.

By REUTERS
May 10, 2013 09:15
3 minute read.
UN peacekeeping force [illustrative]

UN peacekeepers blue helmets. (photo credit: Ali Hashisho / Reuters)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

The Philippines aims to pull out 342 soldiers on peacekeeping duties in the Golan Heights, nearly half the number of its UN peacekeepers worldwide, after the abduction of four Filipinos near the Syrian border, the foreign minister said on Friday.

Albert del Rosario said he had sent a recommendation to President Benigno Aquino to withdraw the peacekeepers from the Israeli-occupied area, explaining that the four peacekeepers were being held by Syrian rebels as human shields against attack by government forces.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


The four were taken hostage on Tuesday.

As of press time on Thursday, Syrian rebel forces were still holding the four members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force.

"Our recommendation ... is for the early pullout of our people because we believe the exposure now is beyond tolerable limits," Del Rosario told reporters.

The Philippines has deployed more than 800 soldiers in UN peacekeeping operations in eight hotspots across the globe. Nearly 350 of them are on duty in the ceasefire zone in the Golan Heights. 

Two months ago, Syrian rebels held 20 Filipino peacekeepers near the border and used them to demand the pull back of Syrian government forces. They were freed after a few days.



"Abduction of peacekeepers is a gross violation of international law and we give great importance to the safety and security of our peacekeepers."

The UN withdrew peacekeepers from one of its stations along the Golan Heights on the Syrian side of the border, after the four Filipinos were abducted.

The remaining peacekeepers from the station, Position 86, were relocated, according to UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, who spoke with reporters about the matter on Wednesday.

The UN is doing its best to keep the rest of its peacekeepers along the Syrian border in the Golan Heights, he told reporters. Another spokesperson assured The Jerusalem Post that the forces were still there.

“UNDOF continues to do its utmost to ensure the implementation of its mandate while mitigating risk to its personnel,” Nesirky said.

“Everybody fully understands that they are operating in an extremely dangerous and unusual environment. They have a mandate that stretches back to the 1970s, and they have been carrying out that mandate faithfully since that time.”

The peacekeepers “work in extremely difficult circumstances,” he noted.

“Of course, if the security situation is such that they need to be relocated, they will be relocated. And then, when the situation allows, they will return,” he said.

He added that “the Force is constantly reviewing and adjusting its security arrangements to address the dynamic and rapidly evolving situation in its area of operations.”

The withdrawal from Position 86 comes at a time when Israel is concerned about the future of the mission. In the last year, three of the six nations that participate in the mission – Croatia, Japan and Canada – withdrew their forces, leaving only some 1,000 peacekeepers along the border.  The UNDOF, has been monitoring a ceasefire between Israel and Syria since 1974.

Austria has threatened that it could similarly pull its peacekeepers if the EU does not renew its arms embargo against Syria. It is worried that the neutrality of its peacekeepers would be compromised if the embargo were lifted and EU countries sent arms to rebel forces.

There is some concern that if Austria’s were to pull its 377 peacekeepers, UNDOF would not have enough personnel on the border to be effective.

Separately UNDOF’s mandate, which gets renewed every six months, will be up for renewal at the end of June. Before that renewal, UN Secretary-General Ban- Ki Moon is scheduled to complete a report on the UNDOF forces in the Golan Heights.

Related Content

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque ahead of annual Haj pilgrimage in the
August 20, 2018
Muslims at hajj blame Arab disunity for Jerusalem embassy move

By REUTERS