UN Secretary General Welcomes Release of Peacekeepers

UN Secretary General Welcomes Release of Peacekeepers
# 10 March 2013 04:19 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the release of peacekeepers who were seized last week in the disputed Golan Heights, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

Twenty-one UN peacekeepers from the buffer zone between Israel and Syria, all of them Filipino nationals, were taken hostage Wednesdayby armed elements of the Syrian opposition, the Martyrs of Yarmouk rebel brigade. On Saturday, they were taken to the Jordanian border and freed.

The peacekeepers are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war.

Ban “appreciates the efforts of all concerned to secure their safe release,” according to a statement by the UN chief’s spokesperson on Saturday.

“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel,” the statement said. “He also calls on them to respect and uphold the protection of civilians.”

The UN-monitored buffer zone in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was set up to separate Israeli and Syrian forces after the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. Although it is de jure on Syrian territory, it has been occupied and annexed by Israel since the war. Ownership of the strategically important Golan Heights remains one of the main points of contention between the two nations.

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