Russia can replace Austria in UN Golan peacekeeping force, says Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) attends a conference at the main operation centre of the Russian armed forces, with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) and armed forces Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov (R) in Moscow, June 6, 2013. (File photo: Reuters)

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

“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, the Austrian government announced that it will withdraw its troops from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights, AFP reported.

“In light of this, the defense minister said that... the Austrian army’s participation in the UNDOF mission can no longer be maintained for military reasons,” Chancellor Werner Faymann and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said in a statement quoted by AFP.

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, according to AFP.

Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista said Friday the decision to pull out was up to the government, but his soldiers were prepared for the dangers, AFP reported.

Fighting flared between Syrian regime troops and rebels along the border with Israel as the Syrian army battled for control over the strategic Quneitra crossing.

Austria, Philippines, India, Morocco and Moldova have been part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights since its inception in 1974 and is currently one of the biggest contributors there, with some 380 troops, AFP said.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:40 - GMT 06:40