Friday 19 January 2018

UN give assurance over peacekeepers

Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles north-west of Baghdad, Iraq (AP)
Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles north-west of Baghdad, Iraq (AP)

The United Nations has assured the Government that the safety of Irish peacekeepers is paramount on their upcoming mission to the Golan Heights.

Some 114 men and women from the 43rd Infantry group are to be deployed to the heavily militarised Syrian border despite the deepening civil war and threat of a missile strike from the US or UK.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore held talks with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon over troop safety.

"That is something that is very much at the top of our minds," he said.

"We have been assured by the United Nations that every arrangement that is possible will be put in place to ensure their safety and security. But it is obviously something that we will continue to discuss with the UN."

Mr Gilmore condemned the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict which has sparked international calls for US or UK military action on president Bassar Assad's regime.

"I think the appropriate place for an international response is through the United Nations and particularly through the United Nations Security Council and I would call on all the permanent members of the security council, all the members of the security council, to take their responsibility seriously in that regard," he said.

Troops have been training in the Glen of Imaal in Wicklow this week in advance of the deployment to the disputed border between Syria and Israel.

Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces Lieutenant General Conor O'Boyle and Defence Minister Alan Shatter are to review troops bound for the mission in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin next week.

The Irish contingent will be a mobile reserve for the UN disengagement observer force (Undof). The operation is to maintain a demilitarised zone between areas controlled by Syria and Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

The soldiers will be called in as reinforcements as well as taking part in regular patrols and escorts.

Ireland was asked for troops after Japan, Croatia and Austria withdrew soldiers amid concerns the Syrian civil war would spill into the Golan territories.

Shots were fired on Austrian soldiers back in June prompting their withdrawal, while Syrian officers travelling with the UN patrols have been abducted by rebels and executed.

Press Association

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