Golan Heights (Israel/Syria)
On 25 March, in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said on the same day that UN Secretary-General António Guterres considers “that the status of Golan has not changed.” Council members cancelled previously scheduled consultations and held a briefing on 27 March to discuss this as well as the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNDOF, covering the period from 21 November 2018 to 14 March 2019. Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacekeeping Affairs, and Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, briefed and representatives from Israel and Syria participated.
On 11 December, Council members met with UNDOF troop-contributing countries and were briefed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alexandre Zouev who also briefed Council members in consultations on 14 December. On 21 December, the Council adopted resolution 2450, renewing UNDOF’s mandate until 30 June 2019.
On 16 October, Council members were briefed in consultations by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix on the latest 90-day report by the Secretary-General on UNDOF.
On 14 June, Council members met in consultations with troop-contributing countries to UNDOF. On 19 June, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members in consultations on the latest report of the Secretary-General and the activities of UNDOF. The Council adopted resolution 2426, renewing UNDOF’s mandate on 29 June.
On 27 March, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members in consultations on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Golan Heights.
On 12 December, Council members met in consultations with troop-contributing countries to UNDOF. On 14 December, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita briefed Council members in consultations on the report on UNDOF for the period from 10 September to 24 November 2017. On 21 December, the Council adopted resolution 2394 renewing the mandate of UNDOF until 30 June 2018 (S/PV.8145).
On 3 October, Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members in consultations on the 27 September Secretary-General’s report.
On 15 June, Council members met with UNDOF TCCs. On 19 June, Council members held consultations on the Secretary-General’s 8 June report on UNDOF, covering 2 March to 16 May. On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution renewing UNDOF’s mandate for an additional six months.
On 28 March, Council members held consultations on UNDOF. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on the latest developments. Council members called on all parties to adhere to the Disengagements Forces Agreement. Furthermore and welcomed UNDOF’s return to the Bravo side as well as the UN’s efforts to ensure security.
On 29 September, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest UNDOF report.
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2294 renewing UNDOF for six months after considering the Secretary-General’s latest report (S/2016/520) on the observer mission during 22 June consultations. Both the report and the resolution noted the UN’s plan for the phased redeployment of UNDOF to vacated positions, security conditions permitting.
On 26 April, Council members were briefed under “any other business” by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye Brook Zerihoun on the Golan Heights. The briefing was requested by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab League, following remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Golan Heights will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty. The Golan Heights were captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and were illegally annexed by Israel; under international law, it is considered an occupied territory. In elements to the press, Council members stressed the status of the Golan Heights remains unchanged.
On 30 March, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest UNDOF report.
On 17 September, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest UNDOF report.
On 29 June, the Council adopted resolution 2229 renewing UNDOF for six months after considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on the observer mission during 23 June consultations. Separately, Major General Michael Finn briefed the Council on peacekeeping on 17 June on how national caveats impact UNTSO’s ability provide UNDOF with military observers able to deploy to the Syrian side of the area of separation (S/PV.7464).
On 24 March, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations briefed Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest UNDOF report.
On 18 December 2014, the Council adopted resolution 2192 renewing UNDOF for six months after considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on the observer mission during 17 December consultations (S/2014/859).
On 9 October, the Council held a public briefing by UN force commanders during which Major General Iqbal Singh Singha of UNDOF was invited to brief on how traditional mandates are carried out in a changed politico-military environment (S/PV.7275). On 20 October, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Edmond Mulet briefed Council members in consultations, following-up a 19 September presidential statement (S/PRST/2014/19) that requested an update on the steps necessary to maintain UNDOF’s ability to carry out its mandate while adjusting the mission’s posture to minimise risk to personnel. Discussions included the possible use of new technologies, such as unmanned, unarmed aerial vehicles or satellite imagery, to carry out monitoring tasks without exposing personnel to risk. Mulet said that both Israel and Syria were reluctant to grant authorisation for the use of such new technologies.
Council members were briefed on 3 September by peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous under “any other business” on a series of events that began on 27 August, when armed opposition forces overran government forces at the Quneitra crossing on the Syrian side of the armistice line. The next day, Al-Nusra Front detained 45 Fijian peacekeepers and besieged 72 Filipino peacekeepers. In response to the incidents, Council members released three press statements (SC/11540, SC/11546 and SC/11548). The Filipino peacekeepers quickly escaped, while the Fijian peacekeepers were held for two weeks only to be released on 11 September. On 17 September, Council members were briefed in consultations by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet on the regular UNDOF report (S/2014/665) and on the relocation of UNDOF personnel and equipment to the Alpha (Israeli) side of the mission’s area of operations. On 19 September, the Council adopted a presidential statement requesting the Secretary-General to update the Council within 30 days on the steps necessary to maintain UNDOF’s ability to carry out its mandate while adjusting the mission’s posture to minimise risk to personnel (S/PRST/2014/19).
The Council issued a press statement on 28 August, that condemned the detention of 43 UNDOF peacekeepers by armed opposition groups and demanded their immediate and unconditional release. The Council issued a press statement on 30 August, that condemned continuing attacks on UNDOF positions, the detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers by armed opposition groups and 40 Filipino peacekeepers surrounded by armed opposition groups, demanded their immediate and unconditional release as well as safe passage and welcomed news that 32 Filipino peacekeepers were extricated to safety.
On 25 June, the Council adopted resolution 2163 renewing UNDOF for six months after considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on the observer mission during 18 June consultations (S/2014/401).
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet presented the Secretary-General’s most recent UNDOF report to Council members in consultations.
Council members were briefed in consultations on 19 September by DPKO on the Secretary-General’s report on UNDOF. Council members were informed that the ceasefire between Israel and Syria was generally maintained although there were violations attributable to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
On 27 June the Council adopted resolution 2108 renewing UNDOF for six months after meeting with troop-contributing countries on 13 June and considering the Secretary-General’s latest report on the observer mission during 18 June consultations. Earlier in the month, the Council issued a press statement on 6 June condemning clashes between the Syrian government and armed opposition in the area of separation between Israel and Syria. The next day, 7 June, Council members were briefed in consultations by DPKO following these clashes and Austria’s subsequent announcement that it would withdraw its troops from UNDOF.
The Council issued two press statements in May concerning Syrian opposition fighters detaining and later releasing UNDOF personnel (SC/11011 of 16 May and SC/10999 of 7 May). Finland sent a letter to the Council on 16 May expressing grave concern over the detention of a Finnish military observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization on 15 May by members of an armed group in the Golan Heights.
Following the detention of 21 UNDOF peacekeepers by armed Syrian opposition fighters, Council members held consultations on 6 March at which they agreed to a press statement condemning the event and demanding the unconditional and immediate release of the peacekeepers. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous updated Council members in consultations on the status of negotiations with those holding the peacekeepers on 8 March, and all 21 were released unharmed into Jordan on 9 March. In letters dated 11 March, Austria and the Philippines (the two largest UNDOF troop contributors) separately requested the Security Council to develop a mechanism to “guarantee” active dialogue between troop-contributing countries (TCCs) and the Council (S/2013/142 and S/2013/152). On 22 March, Council members met informally in an interactive dialogue format with the UNDOF TCCs to address their concerns. On 26 March, Council members met again in regularly scheduled consultations on UNDOF to consider the Secretary-General’s 19 March report on the mission. On 27 March, the Council adopted an additional press statement on UNDOF expressing grave concern over continued violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and calling on all parties to respect the safety and security of UNDOF personnel.
On 19 December, the Council adopted resolution 2084 renewing UNDOF for six months, requested reporting every 90 days (previously it had been every six months) and strengthened language regarding the security of UN personnel. Prior to the adoption, peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members on 17 December in consultations on the most recent UNDOF report.
On 9 November, the US circulated a draft press statement condemning repeated Syrian violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement, but failed to achieve the consensus necessary among Council members to have a press statement issued.
On 15 October, during the quarterly debate on the situation in the Middle East, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman noted that UNDOF had observed “an exchange of weapons between groups crossing the border into Syria from Lebanon” as well as “deadly incidents involving armed elements from Lebanon and Syria” in the UNDOF area of operations.
On 27 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2052 extending UNDOF for six months and noted that events elsewhere in Syria had started to manifest themselves in UNDOF’s area of responsibilities. On 21 June, Council members held consultations on the Secretary-General’s most recent UNDOF report and met with troop-contributing countries on 14 June.
On 21 December, the Security Council adopted resolution 2028 extending UNDOF for six months. The resolution was a joint text by Russia and the US and noted that conditions in the region could impact UNDOF and also requested implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendation to upgrade its equipment and infrastructure.
On 30 June, the Council adopted resolution 1994 extending UNDOF for six months. On 23 June, the Council held consultations on the latest UNDOF report. Breaking from its practice since 1976, the Council dispensed with the traditional accompanying presidential statement and incorporated its language in the resolution about the wider tensions in the region. This resolution also referenced the 15 May incident when Israeli forces killed four civilians on the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights when crowds of Palestinian refugees living in Syria crossed the border in an unprecedented action during annual al-Nakba protests.
On 22 December, the Council adopted resolution 1965 extending UNDOF for six months.
On 28 September, Walid Muallem, the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in an address to the General Assembly that Syria was willing to resume peace negotiations on the return of the Golan with Israel via Turkish mediation. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Muallem on the sidelines of the General Assembly on 27 September.
On 30 June, the Council adopted resolution 1934 extending UNDOF for six months. The 9 June UNDOF report noted that the ceasefire had been maintained and that the area of operation had remained generally quiet.
On 19 June the Council held consultations on the latest UNDOF report. On 23 June the Council adopted a resolution renewing the UNDOF mandate for six months, although it appears that some members proposed a one year extension. (The Council has renewed UNDOF every six months since its establishment in 1974.)
The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations undertook a technical review of UNDOF.
On 28 May, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process confirmed the existence of indirect Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations in a briefing to the Council. On 21 May, Israel and Syria confirmed rumours that they had been indirectly negotiating with Turkey’s mediation.
Israel launched an air strike against a site inside Syria on 6 September. This was confirmed by US sources. The Israeli government remained silent about the incident. Later, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the Israeli jets targeted empty military buildings.
Peace talks between Israel and Syria took place in the US city of Shepherdstown between 3 and 9 January. The talks were indefinitely postponed due to procedural impasse, which reflected a fundamental disagreement over the Golan Heights.
Peace talks between Israel and Syria broke down several months after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Talks were frozen over contrasting interpretations of Rabin’s offer to Syria before his death. Syrians said Rabin had promised to return the Golan Heights, while Israelis countered that no such definitive promise had been made.
In order to reduce expenditure, UNDOF was streamlined, with a 15 percent reduction of each military contingent and civilian staff.
The first of sporadic peace talks took place between Syria and Israel at the Middle East peace conference in Madrid. The talks remained stalled over the issue of the Golan Heights.
The Golan Heights was annexed by Israel on 14 December. The area was put under Israeli law, and settlements were established. The annexation has not been recognized by the international community.
The Observer Group Golan was created. It comprises the UNTSO observers assisting UNDOF and falls under the supervision and operational control of UNDOF.
On 30 November, the initial six-month mandate of UNDOF expired. Since then, the mandate has been repeatedly extended by the Council upon recommendation of the Secretary-General.
31 May 1974
Syria and Israel signed a disengagement agreement over the Golan on 31 May, which provided for an area of separation and for two equal zones of limited forces and armaments on both sides of the area. Israel partially withdrew and the Security Council, through resolution 350, established UNDOF to implement the agreement. UNTSO’s ceasefire observation in the Syria-Israel sector was terminated and 90 observers already assigned to this sector were allocated to UNDOF as an integral part of the force.
On 6 October, the Yom Kippur War broke out when Egypt and Syria launched coordinated attacks on Israeli positions in the Sinai Peninsula and on the Golan Heights, seeking to regain the lost territory.
Political confrontations between Israel and its Arab neighbours increased the risks of a conflict renewal.
5-10 June 1967
Israel launched what it described as a pre-emptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force in the belief that Egypt and Syria were planning to invade. Israel defeated the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and captured the Golan Heights from Syria (along with the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan).
The Israel-Syria Mixed Armistice Commission was set up. A number of UNTSO posts along the Armistice Demarcation Line were established but incidents continued to occur until the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The first group of military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), the first UN peacekeeping operation, arrived in the Middle East in order to supervise the Armistice Agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.