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June 20, 2013
Fiji offers more than 500 troops to Golan force
WORLD POSTED: 19 Jun 2013 7:21 AM Fiji has offered more than 500 soldiers to the UN Golan Heights peacekeeping force after several countries withdrew because of the spillover from the Syria conflict, diplomats said on Tuesday.
File photo of United Nations peacekeepers crossing the Israeli army crossing of Quneitra. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
UNITED NATIONS - Fiji has offered more than 500 soldiers to the UN Golan Heights peacekeeping force after several countries withdrew because of the spillover from the Syria conflict, diplomats said on Tuesday.
Fiji will supply 170 soldiers this month to replace Japanese and Croatian soldiers who have left in previous weeks. Diplomats said it has also offered to replace the 370 soldiers that Austria is withdrawing.
Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant did not give numbers but confirmed there would be a "substantial inflow" of Fijian troops to the force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan since 1974.
He said the bulk of the reinforcements could be in place by the end of July.
Lyall Grant, UN Security Council president for June, said the UN Disengagement Observer Force would also get "some heavier weapons", extra body armor and see observation posts reinforced.
In the growing fallout from more than two years of Syrian war, UNDOF peacekeepers have been abducted and wounded by shelling in recent months. One UNDOF staffer from Canada has been held by abductors since February.
The Fijians will join about 341 soldiers from the Philippines and 193 from India. Sweden has also had talks with the UN about sending troops to the Golan.
Lyall Grant said there had been "strong support" from the 15-member Security Council for UNDOF and the UN peacekeeping department's efforts to strengthen it, at talks held on Tuesday.
The council is set to renew UNDOF's mission for six months at a meeting next week. Lyall Grant said there would be no change to the ceasefire monitoring mandate. "It is really a change of the rules of engagement and force posture that is planned for the future," he told reporters.
After the departure of Japan and Croatia, UNDOF's numbers fell to about 910 troops. But the UN has said it wants to increase the force up to its authorised ceiling of 1,250 soldiers.