Consultations on the Golan Heights
This morning (26 March), Council members will receive a briefing in consultations from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous on the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights. Ladsous is expected to largely focus on the security situation and the operational challenges facing UNDOF. It seems possible that Council members will agree to issue a press statement which is under silence until 9.30 this morning
The draft press statement, which was circulated by the US, was put under silence late yesterday afternoon (25 March) following bilateral negotiations between the US and Russia. Apparently the draft press statement expresses concern over the ongoing fighting, violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and the presence of both Syrian armed forces and armed Syrian opposition members in the Area of Separation. (An earlier draft of the press statement apparently did not contain reference to the Syrian opposition fighters and this was a point of contention for Russia.)
Following a meeting with UNDOF troop-contributing countries (TCCs) last Friday (22 March), it seems that the draft press statement also addresses some of the concerns raised by the TCCs. It appears the TCCs shared their views on a range of issues including communication and information sharing between the Council and TCCs, the relative safety of particular entry-points into UNDOF’s area of operations and the mechanisms in place to safely rotate troops into and out of missions. While likely expressing gratitude to the TCCs and UNDOF personnel, the draft press statement apparently requests the Secretary-General to ensure that UNDOF has the capacity to carry out its mandate. (It appears that there was some indication on Friday that the UN Secretariat is in discussions with a certain member state to make up the troop numbers lost by the withdrawal of both the Japanese and Croatian contributions to the mission earlier this year.) In addition it seems that it also covers the possibility of the temporary use of an alternative port of entry and departure for the troops.
Following on the 6-9 March detention of 21 UNDOF observers by armed opposition fighters in Syria, another area apparently covered in the draft press statement is the need for all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel. It appears there is particular acknowledgement of the Syrian government’s need to allow security and access for UNDOF personnel while respecting the immunity of its personnel. This may be an area that could be brought up for further discussion during the consultations tomorrow.