What's In Blue

Posted Tue 18 Dec 2012

Renewal of the UN Mission in the Golan Heights

Tomorrow morning (19 December), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights (UNDOF) for six months. Russia and the US jointly circulated a draft resolution on Friday (14 December) that was placed in blue on Monday (17 December) following a briefing that morning by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, in closed consultations.

The draft resolution reflects the deteriorating situation on the ground in recent months that has resulted in spillover of the Syrian conflict adversely affecting UNDOF and its area of operations. The Secretary-General’s most recent report on UNDOF (S/2012/897), published on 27 November, detailed multiple violations since 25 September of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. It also noted that, though the ceasefire had held, the Syrian Arab Armed Forces had “expanded their deployment and carried out military activities … in the UNDOF area of operations, ostensibly to contain domestic unrest and the activities of armed elements.”

In addition, the draft resolution changes the Secretary-General’s reporting requirement on UNDOF, requesting a report every 90 days, rather than every six months. While this does not affect UNDOF’s mandate, it means that Council members will be paying more regular attention to the situation.

The draft acknowledges that “recent incidents across the ceasefire line have shown the potential for escalation of tensions between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic.” (This is a reference to repeated instances of shelling in recent months that landed in areas of the Golan Heights administered by Israel. The US circulated a draft press statement on 9 November on such incidents but failed to achieve the consensus necessary to have the statement issued.)

The draft resolution also condemns an incident on 29 November in which five peacekeepers were injured in the vicinity of the Damascus airport while rotating out of the mission. It seems that in response to the increased insecurity, the resolution stresses “the need to enhance the safety and security of UNDOF personnel” and features additional language underscoring “that there should be no military activity of any kind in the area of separation including military operations by the Syrian Arab Armed Forces.” Apparently some troop-contributing countries expressed concern over the security of their nationals participating in the mission at the UNDOF Troop-Contributing Countries meeting on 12 December. Another sign of rising security concerns is that apparently UNDOF personnel will no longer use Damascus airport, instead travelling to and from the mission via Tel Aviv.

Monday’s consultations were apparently uncontroversial, as Council members all agree on the necessity of focusing on UNDOF more regularly and that the abovementioned changes will better allow the mission to carry out its mandate, particularly in the context of the deteriorating situation in Syria.

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