June 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 June 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

UNDOF (Golan Heights)

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to extend for six months the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), established in May 1974 to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is expected to brief Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s UNDOF report, due on 11 June.

The Council is also expected to meet with troop-contributing countries to UNDOF prior to adopting the mandate renewal. The current mandate expires on 30 June.

Key Recent Developments
On 21 December 2011, the Council adopted resolution 2028, extending the UNDOF mandate through 30 June. 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 1 March there were clashes in the area of separation, which media reports indicate included gun battles between Syrian authorities and Syrian civilians. Plain-clothed Syrian troops reportedly entered the area of separation where neither Syrian nor Israeli military presence is allowed.

The forthcoming June report is expected to highlight concerns that Syrian soldiers are entering the area of separation and that there are continuing Syrian restrictions on UNDOF’s access to carry out its monitoring tasks in the area of limitation on the Syrian side. Such incidents, which appear to be related to the current conflict in Syria, have been recurrent since April 2011 and are reportedly increasing.  Instances of ongoing Israeli restrictions in the area of limitation on the Israeli side are also expected to be included in the report along with an unusual incident of an overflight by an Israeli civilian plane. However, the report is anticipated to state that, despite these incidents, the disengagement between Israel and Syria is being maintained, the ceasefire is holding and the situation is generally quiet.

Human Rights-Related Developments
On 22 March the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution by a vote of 33 in favour, one against (the US) and 13 abstentions on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan. The resolution included a call on Israel to desist from its continuous building of settlements and imposing Israeli citizenship on Syrian citizens and to allow the Syrian population of the occupied Syrian Golan to visit their families (A/HRC/19/L.3). Explaining its negative vote, the US said that it did not recognise Israel’s annexation of the Golan nor did it accept settlement activity there but did not regard the situation of citizens in the Golan as equivalent to the urgent plight of Syrian citizens in Syria.

Also on 22 March the Human Rights Council adopted another resolution on Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories by a vote of 36 in favour, one against (the US) and ten abstentions. It asked Israel to cease all of its settlement activities, including in the occupied Syrian Golan (A/HRC/19/L.35).

Key Issues
A key issue is whether the crisis in Syria is excessively affecting UNDOF’s ability to operate.

Another key issue is reports of Syrian forces entering UNDOF’s area of separation and concerns in that regard for the potential to destabilise the long-held ceasefire and the security of UN personnel.

The issue from previous years of whether to adjust the mandate renewal cycle from six to 12 months is unlikely to foster attention in June.

Options
One option is a simple rollover of UNDOF’s mandate for six months. 

A more proactive option is for strengthened language in the renewal resolution, reflecting that the deteriorating situation in Syria is affecting UNDOF’s ability to operate and also:

  • calling for full and unimpeded freedom of movement as required to fulfil the mandate;
  • emphasising the concern about safety of UN personnel; and
  • underscoring the changing regional dynamic’s impact on the Israel-Syria peace track.

Another option is to request the Secretary-General to provide more regular and in-depth reporting.

Council Dynamics
There is consensus that UNDOF remains useful in the absence of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. (Regarding the Israel-Syria peace track, the last attempt at talks was mediated by Turkey, which suspended its efforts after Israeli incursions into Gaza in December 2008. Previously, the last attempt was in 2000.)

It is unlikely that the Council members who in the past seemed interested in a one-year mandate period will renew that push at this moment. There seems to be greater impetus to keep the Israel-Syria track under more regular review in light of the Syrian crisis and its potential for spill-over effects into UNDOF’s area of operations and the subsequent possibility for a destabilising regional impact.

Russia and the US have shared the lead in the Council on the last two UNDOF renewals.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/2028 (21 December 2011) renewed UNDOF until 30 June 2012. 
  • S/RES/350 (31 May 1974) established UNDOF.
  • S/RES/338 (22 October 1973) called for a ceasefire and comprehensive peace.
  • S/RES/242 (22 November 1967) called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories.

Latest Secretary-General’s Report

Other Relevant Facts

UNDOF Force Commander

Maj. Gen. Natalio C. Ecarma (Philippines)

Size and Composition of Mission (as of 30 April 2012)

1,035 troops assisted by 76 military observers of the UN Truce Supervision Organisation’s Observer Group Golan
Troop contributors: Austria, Canada, Croatia, India, Japan and the Philippines

Approved Budget

1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012: $50.5 million (A/C.5/66/14)

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