Coveney seeks assessment of Golan Heights mission

Friday 29 August 2014 21.55
Reports said peacekeepers were taken during fighting between government forces and rebels
Reports said peacekeepers were taken during fighting between government forces and rebels

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has said he will insist the UN re-evaluates its mission in the Golan Heights after days of tension between UN troops and anti Syrian government rebels.

He told RTÉ he cannot allow a situation where Irish and UN troops get dragged into an internal bitter conflict in Syria when their focus is to keep Israel and Syria apart. 

He said the Golan Heights have been "very tense" for the past 48 hours and the UN mission there has got caught up in the ongoing  war between the Syrian government and anti-government rebels.

The minister said rebel forces have turned on UN positions in the last 24 hours. 

He said Irish personnel have been involved in clearing a safe passage for a number of the UN troops to be moved from outposts to central bases and there are ongoing tense negotiations between the UN and rebel groups to secure the release of 43 Fijians troops.

Mr Coveney said all Irish troops are safe and accounted for, adding they are heavily armed and trained for this type of mission.

It is understood the Irish troops had to secure a withdrawal route and escort Filipino troops back to UN mission headquarters.

Irish troops are also reinforcing one location to facilitate any possible withdrawal from other positions.

A Defence Forces spokesman said the Irish soldiers, part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Quick Reaction Force, were "deployed to the zone of separation to reinforce a UN position".

The deployment followed the kidnapping of the Fijian peacekeepers and the surrounding of Filipino troops at a border crossing. 

United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon has called for the immediate release of the 43 peacekeepers.  

Keywords: syria