In Syria’s Golan, Russia seeks handover to UN

Organised Russian press tour tells reporters that stability has now returning to buffer zone

Occupied Golan: Near an abandoned United Nations observation point whose wall had been riddled with bullets, Syrian and Russian policemen gazed across the Israeli-Occupied Golan Heights.

The faded UN logo on the hut’s rusty roof was barely visible in Tal Krum, just inside the buffer zone that separates war-torn Syria to the east, from the Golan Heights to the west.

His back to the hilly Israeli side, the Russian army’s Lieutenant-General Sergei Kuralenko on Tuesday told reporters on an organised press tour how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.

Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” the demilitarised zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police”, Kuralenko said.

“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.

With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Al Assad’s regime has expelled rebels from large parts of the country’s south since June.

After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.

The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.

They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone”, he said.

“There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,” according to a UN Security Council resolution in June.

With that in mind, Russia is demining the areas around the observation posts abandoned in 2014 to help establish secure patrolling routes for the UN troops, Kuralenko said.

“Our mission here is to ensure security so that the UN flag can fly above their posts and that (UNDOF) work without restriction in the zone,” he said.

The occupation of Golan

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan from Syria in the 1967 War and later occupied it in a move never recognised internationally.

In 1974, a UN peacekeeping mission was created to monitor the ceasefire line separating Israelis from Syrians.

But in 2014, the United Nations Disengagement Observation Force was forced to withdraw after Syrian terrorists overran it, briefly kidnapping more than 40 Fijian UNDOF troops.

UNDOF resumed its activities on the Syrian side in February, and earlier this month carried out its first patrol since 2014 to the Quneitra crossing.


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