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Putin Offers to Send Troops to Replace Austrians in the Golan

Russian President proposes that his country’s peacekeepers replace departing Austrian troops in the Golan Heights.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 6/7/2013, 8:49 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday that his country’s peacekeepers replace departing Austrian troops which monitor the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire line in the Golan Heights.

“Considering the difficult situation that is developing today in the Golan Heights, we could replace the departing Austrian contingent in this region separating Israeli forces from the Syrian army,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying.

On Thursday, Austria said it was pulling its United Nations peacekeeping force from the Golan Heights. Austria accounts for about 380 of the 1,000-strong UN force monitoring the Israel-Syria ceasefire line in the Golan Heights.

“Freedom of movement in the area de facto no longer exists. The uncontrolled and immediate danger to Austrian soldiers has risen to an unacceptable level," the Austrian chancellor, Werner Faymann, and his deputy, Michael Spindelegger, said in a joint statement.

Austria’s decision to withdraw its troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has been monitoring the ceasefire line since 1974, came after Syrian rebels briefly seized the only crossing along the Israel-Syria ceasefire line on the Golan, before regime forces recaptured it using tanks.

On Friday, UN peacekeeping forces said they were studying whether to pullout of the Golan Heights after Austria’s withdrawal decision and two UN soldiers were injured in Syrian infighting.

The Philippines also said it is reviewing a troop withdrawal after a Filipino soldier was wounded.

The Department of Foreign Affairs recommended last month to President Benigno Aquino that the Philippines withdraw because of security concerns, but presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said no decision had yet been made, AFP reported.

Israel is expected to oppose Russia’s suggestion to replace the Austrians, Channel 10 News reported. The reason is Russia’s ongoing support for President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

Russia has indicated that it plans to provide Assad with advanced S-300 missiles despite a request by Israel not to do so.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)