21 November 1997


Press Release
SC/6446



SECURITY COUNCIL RENEWS MANDATE OF UNDOF UNTIL 31 MAY

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The Security Council this afternoon renewed the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) for six months, until 31 May 1998. The Force was established in May 1974 to supervise the cease-fire for the Council and the agreement on disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces of 31 May 1974.

Through unanimous adoption of resolution 1139 (1997), the Council called upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973), which had called upon the parties to arrive at a comprehensive and durable peace. The Council requested the Secretary-General to report to it at the end of the new mandate period on measures taken to implement the text.

Also, through a statement read out by its President, Qin Huasun (China), the Council recalled that the report of the Secretary-General on UNDOF had stated that, despite the present quiet, the situation in the Middle East would continue to be potentially dangerous until a comprehensive settlement could be reached. That statement of the Secretary-General reflected the view of the Security Council.

The meeting was called to order at 1:25 p.m. and adjourned at 1:30 p.m.

Statement, Resolution

The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1997/53, reads as follows:

"As is known, the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (S/1997/884) states, in paragraph 9: 'Despite the present quiet in the Israel-Syria sector, the situation in the Middle East continues to be potentially dangerous and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached.' That statement of the Secretary-General reflects the view of the Security Council."


The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force of 14 November 1997 (S/1997/884),

"Decides:

"(a) To call upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973;

"(b) To renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for another period of six months, that is, until 31 May 1998;

"(c) To request the Secretary-General to submit, at the end of this period, a report on the development in the situation and the measures taken to implement Security Council resolution 338 (1973)."

Secretary-General's Report

The Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/1997/884) in which he recommends the extension of UNDOF's mandate for a further six months, until 31 May 1998. Given the prevailing circumstances in the region, he states that the continued presence of the Force, which was established in May 1974, is essential and both the Governments of Syria and Israel have agreed to the extension.

In his report, which covers the period from 17 May to 14 November 1997, the Secretary-General states that the situation in the Israeli-Syrian sector has remained calm and without serious incident. Despite the present quiet, however, the situation in the Middle East continues to be potentially dangerous and likely to remain so, unless a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached. He, therefore, expresses the hope that determined efforts will be made by all concerned to arrive at a just and durable peace settlement, as called for in Council resolution 338 (1973).

The report describes an incident of 30 May 1997, in which two Austrian soldiers were shot and killed during a routine foot patrol east of position 14 near Hadar. Regrettably, the Secretary-General says, the investigations by the Syrian authorities and UNDOF, in cooperation with the Austrian Government, have so far not shed any light on who carried out the attack or their motive. The Syrian authorities have informed UNDOF that they are continuing their investigation. The Secretary-General expressed appreciation to the Government of Canada, which provided technical assistance for the analysis of evidence.


Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6446 3835th Meeting (PM) 21 November 1997

During the period under review, UNDOF has continued to perform its functions effectively, the report states. The Force supervised the area of separation by means of fixed positions and patrols, to ensure that no military forces were there. It also carried out fortnightly inspections of armament and force levels in the areas of limitation. Liaison officers from the two sides accompanied the inspection teams. As in the past, the inspection teams were denied access to some of the positions and had their freedom of movement restricted.

As of November 1997, UNDOF comprised 1,053 troops, according to the report. That figure includes 464 from Austria, 186 from Canada, 45 from Japan, 358 from Poland, and 78 military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). Major-General David Stapleton (Ireland) took over the command from Major-General Johannes C. Kosters (Netherlands), who completed his tour of duty on 31 May 1997.

In making his recommendation to extend UNDOF a further six months, the Secretary-General draws attention to the serious shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to some $50.9 million far larger than UNDOF's annual budget. He appeals to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full, and to clear all remaining arrears.

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