Fiji confirms another 380 U.N. peacekeepers for Golan

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Fiji has announced it will send a further 380 troops to join a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, lifting the Pacific nation’s contribution to 562.

The move comes after several countries withdrew from the peacekeeping force due to escalating violence stemming from the Syrian conflict.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the additional soldiers would leave for the tense border between Syria and Israel in the next few weeks, the Fiji Sun reported.

“They'll leave before the end of this month,” Bainimarama said during a state visit to the Solomon Islands over the weekend, the newspaper reported.

Japan and Croatia have already pulled out their contingents and Austria, previously the top contributor with almost 380 soldiers, is in the process of doing the same.

The Philippines has also raised the prospect of withdrawing, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week said he was “seriously concerned” about the force’s dwindling numbers.

A Fiji government statement said Russia had signaled its approval of Fiji involvement when Bainimarama visited Moscow last month and had offered assistance to the Pacific nation’s peacekeepers.

Foreign Affairs Minister Inoke Kubuabola’s office told AFP the assistance would be in the form of military equipment but declined to provide further details.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has been monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan since 1974, but violence has escalated as the Syrian conflict spills over into the area.

Fiji’s military has a long history of contributing to U.N. peacekeeping forces but Bainimarama said last month that the Golan Heights deployment was potentially the most dangerous mission they had faced.

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