Security Council demands release of UN peacekeepers held in Golan Heights

6 March 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned the detention today by “armed elements of the Syrian opposition” of a group of United Nations peacekeepers who monitor the ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria, and demanded their immediate release.

A statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said that 21 peacekeepers from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained in the vicinity of Al Jamla in the area of limitation.

“The Secretary-General reminds all actors in Syria that UNDOF is mandated to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. UNDOF’s freedom of movement and safety and security must be respected by all parties,” said the statement.

The Council also spoke out about the incident, in a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the March presidency of the 15-member body, following a closed-door meeting.

“The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel,” Mr. Churkin said.

UN spokesperson Eduardo del Buey told reporters that approximately 30 armed fighters had stopped and detained the peacekeepers.

“The mission is dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution,” he said.

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.