June 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2007
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MIDDLE EAST

Golan Heights (UNDOF)

Expected Council Action

In June, the Council is expected to continue its usual practice and extend for six months the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights. It expires on 30 June. In renewing the mandate, the Council traditionally calls for implementation of resolution 338 of 22 October 1973, which refers to resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories. 

The Council president is expected to issue a statement that the Middle East will remain tense until a comprehensive settlement is reached. Again, this has been the practice on the renewal of UNDOF since 1976. Substantive discussion of the underlying issues seems unlikely.

Key Recent Developments
In a report on the Middle East, outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 11 December expressed disappointment that there had been no movement in the return of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace between Syria and Israel during his ten years in office. He also criticised complacency on the need to resolve this problem as the Golan Heights is relatively calm compared with the rest of the region. However, he acknowledged that the issue was “intrinsically connected to progress on other tracks in the Middle East peace process.”

After the 2006 Lebanon war, President Bashar Al-Assad signalled Syria’s readiness to resume the peace negotiations with Israel which were interrupted in 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected the offer because of Syria’s ongoing support of “terrorist groups”.

On 3 May, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during a conference on Iraq. This was the first high-level meeting between the US and Syria since January 2005. It is unclear whether this may lead to some change in US relations with Syria.

Options
The most likely option is a further repetition of the now formulaic renewal of the UNDOF mandate. The Council has yet to discuss the impact on UNDOF if there is a new border demarcation in the Sheb’a Farms region, located in the Golan. If the Secretary-General’s report providing a geographical definition of the Farms finally appears in June, as currently planned, an option may be for the Council to request a report on how UNDOF would be affected by new borders.

Key Issues
One possible issue is the border demarcation in the Sheb’a Farms area, as the Council has repeatedly asked for (in resolutions 15591680 and 1701). UNDOF’s area of operations includes the Sheb’a Farms. Cartographical work on the border is due to be completed in June and this may prompt discussions.

An issue could arise if the US pursued its earlier questioning of the language of the customary presidential statement. If this happened it is likely to become a serious issue; for many Council members the resolution and statement are seen as an integral package.

Council Dynamics
There is wide consensus that UNDOF remains useful in the absence of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1729 (15 December 2006) renewed UNDOF for six months.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel and authorised a reinforcement of UNIFIL.
  • S/RES/1680 (17 May 2006) encouraged Syria to respond positively to the Lebanese request to delineate their common border and called for further efforts to disarm Hezbollah and to restore Lebanon’s control over all Lebanese territory.
  • S/RES/1559 (2 September 2004) urged Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarmament of all militias.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2007/12(17 April 2007) noted progress on the issue of Sheb’a Farms.
  • S/PRST/2006/54 (15 December 2006) was the last statement following the renewal of UNDOF.
  • S/PRST/2006/51 (12 December 2006) reiterated the importance of achieving a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on resolutions 242 and 338.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2007/262 (7 May 2007) was the latest 1559 report.
  • S/2007/147 (14 March 2007) was the latest 1701 report.
  • S/2006/956 (11 December 2006) was the report on the Middle East.
  • S/2006/938 (4 December 2006) was the latest UNDOF report.

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Other Relevant Facts

UNDOF Force Commander

Major-General Wolfgang Jilke (Austria)

Size and Composition of Mission (30 April 2007)

  • 1,043 troops, assisted by some 57 military observers of UNTSO’s Observer Group Golan.
  • Troop contributors: Austria, Canada, India, Japan, Nepal, Poland and Slovakia

Approved Budget

1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: $39.87 million 

Please visit our December 2005 Forecast for a list of documents and historical background.

Useful Additional Sources
Restarting Israeli-Syrian Negotiations, International Crisis Group Report, No. 63, 10 April 2007

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