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Coveney: I will not send troops into civil war zone

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Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

Defence Minister Simon Coveney says he is not going to send Irish troops into a civil war by deploying more troops to the Golan Heights in Syria.

Mr Coveney also denied Irish UN peacekeepers had to be rescued by the Israeli Defence Forces.

"There was no incident where Israeli troops had to go and rescue Irish troops," he said.

However, the minister did say the Irish troops were involved in rescuing Filipino troops who were surrounded by rebel forces. He said there were shots fired in the incident, when Irish troops were asked to evacuate the Filipinos.

"They did that in a very professional way. They took some fire and returned some fire and they successfully helped their colleagues to get out of a very difficult situation," he said.

The UN is currently reviewing the peacekeeping mission on the border between Israel and Syria is underway after troops from Fiji were captured by militants and later released.

The Defence Forces are due to rotate the 133 Irish troops on peacekeeping duty in the coming weeks. However, no decision on continued participation has been made.

Mr Coveney says the UN must continue to monitor and evaluate the safety of the mission to ensure the safety of peacekeepers and observers.

The next deployment of Irish peacekeepers personnel to the Golan Heights has been delayed by a fortnight as UN forces reorganise to alternative bases for safety concerns.

Mr Coveney said Ireland will only deploy troops if the nature of the mission does not change.

"We are not moving into the territory of peace enforcement here. And under no circumstances am I going to send Irish troops on a peacekeeping mission to involve themselves in a civil war and trying to enforce peace on that civil war. That is not what we are doing. This is about observing an armistice between Israel and Syria that happened back in 1974," he said.

Irish Independent