26 April 2013
Kiwi UN Military Observers continue to effectively monitor the Israeli/Syrian ceasefire supporting the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) mission, says Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Kevin Short.
Last month due to the increased threat level on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones decided to move the two Kiwi Military Observers who were working on the eastern side of the De-Militarised Zone (DMZ). These two observers were restricted to movements only within the DMZ area that spans Syria and Israeli territory and not into uncontrolled Syrian territory. This decision was supported by the NZ Government and the UN was informed.
AVM Short says the Kiwi Military Observers are still able to fulfil their mandate of monitoring the ceasefire between Israel and Syria. When required they can travel to Camp Faouar on the Syrian side of the Golan for mission essential briefings.
“The Defence Force continues to support the UNTSO mission, however as long as the threat situation remains high in Syria, our Military Observers will not patrol that region. They are still able to effectively carry out their monitoring role. The UNTSO mission has no mandate to intervene in the internal conflict in Syria.
“The Defence Force remains committed to supporting peace and security in the Middle East and we will continue to contribute personnel to UNTSO. New Zealand has contributed personnel to UNTSO for over 50 years, and it is our longest serving mission.
“Our personnel are well prepared and well trained for the situations they may encounter in the region. Their ability to work independently and establish professional relationships with a variety of UN colleagues make them ideally suited to work as Military Observers.”
Last month a Kiwi Military Observer was on duty at an Observation Post on the Syrian side of the Golan when the Observation Post took indirect and direct fire resulting in minor damage. The Military Observers on the Observation Post remained in the bunker with communications and were unharmed.
Previously in December last year, a Kiwi Military Observer was briefly detained while on patrol on the Syrian side of the Golan. He was released later that day unharmed.
For further information please contact Senior Media Advisor, Kirsty Taylor-Doig, on 021 806 926.
The Defence Force has a total of eight personnel deployed to UNTSO. Two are based in headquarters UNTSO in Jerusalem, two are based in Tyre in Southern Lebanon, and four are based in the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
UN Military Observers monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region.
New Zealand's initial involvement in UNTSO began in 1954, and was based on the desire to make a tangible contribution to UN peacekeeping efforts along the disputed Arab-Israeli border.