First UN convoy reaches Golan Heights without Russian military escort | Eurasia Diary -

20 March, Wednesday

First UN convoy reaches Golan Heights without Russian military escort

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The UN mission conducted its first patrol mission to the demilitarized zone near the Golan Heights on Syria’s border with Israel without being escorted by the Russian military police, the deputy commander of the Russian troops in Syria, Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko, has said.
"Today’s convoy to the Golan Heights is a result of Russia’s preparatory work jointly with UN forces. Earlier, Russian military police escorted another convoy, and today the UN forces… patrolled the territory on their own," he said.
The Russian general said the successful operation will allow UN forces to control positions in the demilitarized zone along the so-called Alpha line, held by the Israeli military.
"The UN flag is a symbol of stability, just like the flag of Russia. Today, the flag of Russia in the demilitarized zone remains a symbol of confidence in the future and a guarantor of peace. However, we all are aware that, in line with the resolution adopted in 1973, this area should be controlled by UN forces, and Russia is doing its best to put it into practice," Kuralenko said.
The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, Francis Vib-Sanziri, said the main goal of today’s patrolling mission was to assess the condition of roads and a bridge in the area. The report on the mission’s findings will be submitted to the UN.
He said that rebuilding roads and other infrastructure in the area currently remains the mission’s main goal.
Golan Heights issue
The Golan Heights had been part of Syria since 1944, but the territory was seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1981, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a law on the Golan Heights, which unilaterally proclaimed Israel’s sovereignty over that territory. The annexation was deemed illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 497 of December 17, 1981.
Later, a part of the territory and the town of Quneitra were returned to Syria on the condition that the territory will be demilitarized and a UN mission will be deployed there.
According to earlier reports, a UN mission, accompanied by the Russian military police, has for the first time ever entered the region from the territory of Syria since the start of the Syrian conflict. Prior to that, UN forces headquartered in the capital Damascus, had to enter the area via the Lebanese border, because the Syrian part of the demilitarized zone was held by militants.

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