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Irish peace troops get go-ahead to redeploy in Golan zone

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Minister Simon Coveney

Minister Simon Coveney

SPORTSFILE

Minister Simon Coveney

Irish peacekeeping troops have been given the go-ahead to continue their role in the United Nations mission on the strife-torn Golan Heights.

A new contingent of 130 troops will be deployed on the ground there next month.

In the meantime, a further review of the mission, focusing on the safety of the troops and their capacity to fulfil their 40-year-old mandate, is being carried out at UN headquarters in New York.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney advised the Government at yesterday's Cabinet meeting he was satisfied that Ireland could continue to contribute to the Undof (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) mission.

Mr Coveney told the Dail last night he welcomed the strong endorsement of the mission from the UN Security Council and said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would report back around mid-October on steps to maintain the mission's capacity.

He said the security council had noted that it was important to maintain Undof's strength to the level necessary to carry out its mandate and to retain the quick reaction and counter explosive device capabilities, which were provided by Ireland and which, the UN said, had proved to be indispensable in the facing of the changing security environment on the Golan.

The security council had also underlined the necessity of efforts to flexibly adjust Undof's posture to minimise risk to UN personnel as it continued to implement its mandate, while emphasising that the ultimate goal was for the peacekeepers to return to their positions in their area of operation as soon as practicable.

Most of the troops on the Golan at present are now deployed on the Israeli side of demilitarised zone, as a result of the recent series of attacks, including kidnappings, carried out against the peacekeepers by rebel fighters from an al-Qai'da affiliate, al-Nusrah Front.

Safety

A group of Nepalese soldiers remain on the Syrian side.

Both Mr Coveney and Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan are due to hold talks about the future of the mission and the safety of Irish troops when they meet senior UN officials in New York later this week.

As the quick reaction force, the Irish contingent is the most heavily armed on the mission but the possibility of adding 81mm mortars to their armoury is expected to be one of the issues raised at those talks.

Irish Independent