Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on Sunday that he has been told security threats on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are not expected to ease soon, dimming hopes that UN peacekeepers can be deployed back to the region in the near future, according The Associated Press (AP).
A group of 244 Philippine peacekeepers flew back to Manila on Friday after being recalled, while 84 more were due home Sunday, ending a five-year presence in the increasingly volatile Golan.
There have been no signs suggesting the Philippines will resume its mission in the Golan, according to AP. Filipino forces continue to help a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
Aquino said his government was informed in a letter from the U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Edmond Mulet, that "there is no expectation" that UN peacekeepers could be deployed back to the Syrian side of the Golan "in the short or midterm."
Aquino's comments, made Friday during a trip to Germany, were released to the media on Sunday.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) withdrew hundreds of members of the peacekeeping force from the Syrian side to the Israeli side of the Golan Heights a week ago, after Syrian rebels advanced on their positions in fighting that has occasionally spilled over into Israel.
The rebel forces, which include Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front forces, have seized UN weapons, equipment and uniforms in their recent campaign that has seen the Syrian Golan Heights fall completely into their hands.
In late August, rebels on the Syrian side, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, seized the Quneitra crossing and kidnapped more than 40 Fijian UNDOF troops, before they were released two weeks later.
They also clashed with 75 Filipino members of the force, who eventually fled a nearby outpost.