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Saturday 16 December 2017

Irish troops to remain on Golan mission

Simon Coveney TD
Simon Coveney TD

Irish troops will continue to serve as peacekeepers in the Golan Heights despite the increase in tension in the area.

The decision, which was announced by Defence Minister Simon Coveney (inset), comes after weeks of uncertainty about Ireland's continued participation in the UN Middle East mission on the border between Syria and Israel.

In recent weeks, UN troops had come into conflict with armed Islamist rebels who are fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.

However, Mr Coveney told the Dail that he had "advised the Government today that the Defence Forces will continue to participate in the mission, and the rotation will proceed with the 46th Infantry Group commencing deployment on the ground next month".

Around 130 troops will be deployed to the UN mission which has been in place since 1974. They will replace troops who are currently in the Golan Heights, whose tour had been extended by a number of weeks.

"The Government and I place high importance on the valuable work being done by the Defence Forces in the challenging operating conditions they face in the region and indeed in all other missions throughout the world," Mr Coveney said.

He said that given the evolving security situation, the mission has continued to reconfigure its operations, with a view to minimising unacceptable risks to peacemakers, while continuing to implement the mission's mandate.

However, in the past fortnight there has been a fundamental realignment of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission reflecting the deteriorating situation on the ground, the minister said. He added that UNDOF had played a key role in maintaining peace and security in the area of separation.

"It continues to have a role in that regard and Ireland contributes a significant element of the support and protection required by the force.

"While further restructuring is required and this is in process, given current plans and the strong and unconditional endorsement of the mission by the UN Security Council, including in relation to the capabilities provided by Ireland, I am satisfied we can continue to contribute to the mission," the minister said.

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