December 2007 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 November 2007
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MIDDLE EAST

Golan Heights

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to extend for six months the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, which is due to expire on 31 December (UNDOF was established in 1974). The Council traditionally also calls for implementation of resolution 338 of 22 October 1973, which in turn refers to resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories.

As has been the practice since 1976, a presidential statement that the Middle East will remain tense until a comprehensive settlement is reached is also expected. 

Key Recent Developments
On 25 November, Syria announced that it would accept the invitation to participate in the US sponsored meeting on the Middle East to be held in Annapolis, suggesting that its concern that the unresolved Golan Heights dimension of the wider Middle East situation would not be overlooked, had been accommodated to some extent. The meeting took place on 27 November and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were launched with the goal of resolving all final status issues within 13 months.

On 6 September, Israel launched an air strike against a site inside Syria. 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. In his speech to the General Assembly high-level debate on 1 October, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said the Security Council should have condemned the strike. However no proposals were made by any Security Council member to take up the issue.

Options
A likely option is a simple rollover of UNDOF’s mandate. But the Council could also welcome Syria’s participation in the Annapolis conference and encourage a Syria-Israel peace track. Depending on progress in the Middle East talks, some departure from the now thirty year old ritual is a possible option for future UNDOF mandate renewals.

Key Issue
If Lebanon and Syria settle their border and the Sheb’a Farms become Lebanese, they would fall under the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations with implications for UNDOF and for UNIFIL.

Another key issue in the medium-term is whether the Annapolis conference will lead to a reopening of peace talks between Syria and Israel with a view to resolving the Golan Heights issue.

Council Dynamics
There is wide consensus that UNDOF remains useful in the absence of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. But the fact that Syria finally participated in the Annapolis conference may have some impact on the Council’s dynamics.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1759 (20 June 2007) renewed UNDOF until 31 December 2007.
  • S/RES/1701 (11 August 2006) requested the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals for delineation of the Lebanese borders, especially in the Sheb’a Farms area.

Latest Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2007/20 (20 June 2007) was the last statement following the renewal of UNDOF.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2007/641 (30 October 2007) was the latest report on resolution 1701.
  • S/2007/331 (5 June 2007) was the latest UNDOF report.

Selected Letters

  • S/2007/630 (25 October 2007) was a letter from Syria complaining about Israel’s policy of uprooting trees in the Golan Heights in contravention of international humanitarian law, which prevents occupying forces from targeting civilian objects.
  • S/2007/537 (9 September 2007) was a letter from Syria denouncing the Israeli violations of Syrian airspace on 6 September.

Other Relevant Facts

UNDOF Force Commander

Major-General Wolfgang Jilke (Austria)

Size and Composition of Mission (30 September 2007)

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

Approved Budget

1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008: $41.59 million

Full forecast