Coveney: Golan Heights UN mission must change

Thursday 04 September 2014 20.29
130 members of the Defence Forces are serving in the Golan Heights
130 members of the Defence Forces are serving in the Golan Heights

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has held a meeting with his Dutch counterpart regarding Irish calls for changes to the UN mission in the Golan Heights, where 130 members of the Defence Forces serve.

The meeting took place this evening on the fringes of a meeting of the Partnership for Peace gathering in Wales, which is taking place alongside the NATO summit.

Mr Coveney said he was very anxious for the meeting to take place given the Netherlands also has officers serving in the Golan.

"I made it very clear that we wanted Dutch help to make it clear that this is a mission which needs to change to reflect the new realities on the ground,” Mr Coveney said.

"We need to manage risk responsibly. If I am going  to make a decision - and if the Government is going to make a decision, to commit young Irish lives, even though they are very well trained and very brave and competent soldiers, we need to know that the UN is responding in terms of the make-up of the mission, and its structure, and its approach to the new realities on the ground, which have become much more dangerous in the last week or so."

He said the Partnership for Peace, which Ireland joined in 1999, was working well and achieving the stated aim - maximising the safety of Ireland’s troops under a UN mandate.

Mr Coveney said: “We need to be sure that when we are operating shoulder to shoulder with other countries that we understand their systems, their weapons and training methods; that we operate to the same standards - and this is the best way of ensuring these missions are successful and safe.”

He added that the Government did want the Defence Forces to be part of a “new approach” for Afghanistan, in which NATO troops will withdraw at the end of the year and will be replaced by a training and support mission.

Mr Coveney said: “We have already said we would commit five personnel to that mission.”