Calls for contingent of Irish troops to stay on with UN in Syria

Sunday 31 August 2014 22.47
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UN officials in the Golan Heights are continuing efforts to negotiate the release of 44 Fijian soldiers
UN officials in the Golan Heights are continuing efforts to negotiate the release of 44 Fijian soldiers
Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang (C) reacts after learning about the safe repositioning of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights
Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang (C) reacts after learning about the safe repositioning of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights

Fianna Fáil TD and party defence spokesman Seán Ó Fearghaíl has suggested the current Irish contingent of soldiers in the Golan Heights should have their time there extended if the current difficulties being experienced there continue.

Those currently serving in the Golan with the UN are due to return home next month and are due to be replaced by a new group of Irish soldiers.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said if it is contended the mission should continue, then it would be more appropriate that Irish soldiers with experience of the situation should continue in the short term rather than replacing them with raw, inexperienced personnel.

He also told RTÉ News there is a real risk of Irish soldiers being dragged into a vicious and nasty civil war and the matter must be revisited by the UN and the Department of Defence.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has said he is not going to make any decisions about the troop rotation until they review what has taken place over the past number of days.

Most of the Irish soldiers serving with the UN in the Golan Heights have now returned to their base in Camp Faouar following the successful escape of their Filipino colleagues from a UN position that had been surrounded and taking fire from anti-Syrian government rebel forces.

Irish troops who fulfil the role of the UN mission's quick reaction force had remained in the area while the gun battle was taking place but were not directly involved in the incident.

The Filipinos escaped on foot overnight and are now in a larger UN camp on the Israeli side of the border.

UN and Fijian officials are continuing efforts to negotiate the release of 44 Fijian soldiers taken by the rebels last Thursday.

The whereabouts of the soldiers is not known.