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Minister Shatters Visits Irish Observers on the Golan Heights

Minister Shatter, on the third day of his St Patrick’s Day programme to the Middle East, today visited the Golan Heights and met with Irish personnel serving with UNTSO, the UN Troop Supervision Organisation and UNDOF, the UN Observer Force on the Golan Heights. The Minister saw at first hand the work of the observers in the Golan Heights, and visited one of the outposts close to where a number of significant incidents occurred recently involving forces engaged in the Syrian conflict. Personnel there briefed the Minister on recent incidents in the area including the recent incident in which 21 Philipino members of UNTSO were seized by Syrian opposition forces.

The Minister also met the Force Commander of UNDOF, who thanked him for Ireland’s continued commitment to the mission and praised the work of Irish Defence Forces’ personnel working for him in the mission. The Minister stated that he was pleased that the Philipine members of the mission were released and safe and discussed force protection issues of relevance to the mission. The Force Commander briefed the Minister on the current situation in the mission area which is the area of separation between Syria and Israel. Pointing to the difficulties being encountered by observers, the Force Commander emphasised the need for continued vigilance so as to ensure observers can work safely in what has become an area of intense conflict. At the meeting, the Minister reiterated Ireland’s support for the mission and agreed with the Force Commander on the vital role the mission plays, even more so in the current conflict situation. Speaking after his meeting the Minister said that “Ireland supports the continued engagement of the UN observers in the Golan Heights. Observers play a key role in informing the UN and the wider international community on the evolving situation. They do so in very difficult situations and need our continued support. It is important that all those engaged in the conflict respect the role of the observers and ensure their safety”.

The Minister also met with MK Tzippi Livni, Minister of Justice designate. They discussed matters of mutual interest, including the potential, following the formation of the new Israeli government, for renewed engagement in peace negotiations on the two State solution for Israel and Palestine. The Minister restated Ireland’s support for the peace process and advised her that Ireland stood ready to do whatever it could to support and encourage the parties engagement in the process should that be helpful. Later this evening the Minister will attend a reception for the Ireland Israel Friendship League.

ENDS

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