Fiji Offers More Troops to Golan Heights UN Force
Fiji has offered more than 500 troops to the UN Golan Heights peacekeeping force after several countries withdrew because of the spillover from the Syria conflict, diplomats said Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.
On Monday it was reported that Fiji will supply 170 troops this month to replace Japanese and Croatian soldiers who have left in previous weeks. Diplomats said Tuesday it has also offered to replace the 370 troops that Austria is withdrawing.
Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant did not give numbers but confirmed there would be a "substantial inflow" of Fijian troops to the force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan since 1974.
He said the bulk of the reinforcements could be in place by the end of July.
Lyall Grant, UN Security Council president for June, said the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) would also get "some heavier weapons", extra body armor and see observation posts reinforced, according to AFP.
In the growing fallout from more than two years of Syrian war, UNDOF peacekeepers have been abducted and wounded by shelling in recent months. One UNDOF staffer from Canada has been held by abductors since February.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week called for better protection for UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights to counter the growing threat of spillover violence from the Syria conflict.
The Fijians will join about 341 troops from the Philippines and 193 from India. Sweden has also had talks with the UN about sending troops to the Golan, reported AFP.
Lyall Grant said there had been "strong support" from the 15-member Security Council for UNDOF and the UN peacekeeping department's efforts to strengthen it, at talks held on Tuesday.
The council is set to renew UNDOF's mission for six months at a meeting next week. Lyall Grant said there would be no change to the ceasefire monitoring mandate.
"It is really a change of the rules of engagement and force posture that is planned for the future," he told reporters, according to AFP.
After the departure of Japan and Croatia, UNDOF's numbers fell to about 910 troops. But the UN has said it wants to increase the force up to its authorized ceiling of 1,250 troops.