Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force
(for the period from 8 December 2004 to 10 June 2005)
1. The present report gives an account of the activities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) during the last six months pursuant to the mandate contained in Security Council resolution 350 (1974) of 31 May 1974 and extended in subsequent resolutions, most recently resolution 1578 (2004) of 15 December 2004.
II. Situation in the area and activities of the Force
2. During the period under review, the ceasefire in the Israel-Syria sector was maintained and the area of operation of UNDOF remained generally quiet, except in the Shab’a farms area (Area 6), which experienced activity originating from the area of operation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), described in my reports on UNIFIL. There were two incidents involving crossings of the ceasefire line. On 15 April, a male civilian with a shotgun crossed the line from the Syrian side and fired rounds at an Israeli military post prior to being captured and taken for investigation. He remains in Israeli custody. On 8 May, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces crossed into the area of separation and captured a Syrian civilian, who was taken to the Israeli side for interrogation. He was released the next day.
3. UNDOF supervised the area of separation by means of fixed positions and patrols to ensure that military forces of either party were excluded from it. The Force also carried out fortnightly inspections of equipment and force levels in the areas of limitation. Liaison officers from the party concerned accompanied the inspection teams. As in the past, both sides denied inspection teams access to some of their positions and imposed some restrictions on the Force’s freedom of movement. In addition, Israeli national customs officials continued to operate at the Israel Defense Forces post at the UNDOF crossing gate between Israeli-occupied Golan and the Syrian Arab Republic.
4.4. The Force continued to assist the International Committee of the Red Cross with the passage of persons through the area of separation. During the last six months, UNDOF assisted in the crossing of 58 students and provided protection at one wedding. On an exceptional basis, UNDOF facilitated the transfer of 4,028 tons of apples through the area of separation from the Israeli side to the Syrian side. Within the means available, medical treatment was provided to the local population on request. UNDOF remained available to support the United Nations Children’s Fund in activities to promote mine awareness among the civilian population.
5. In the area of operation, especially in the area of separation, mines continued to pose a threat to UNDOF personnel and local inhabitants. Owing to the age of the mines and their deteriorating explosives, this threat has increased. UNDOF continued to carry out operational mine clearance. During the reporting period, one UNDOF vehicle was severely damaged by unexploded ordnance; there were no injuries to UNDOF personnel.
6. The Force Commander and his staff maintained close contact with the military authorities of Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic. Both sides generally cooperated with the Force in the execution of its tasks.
7. As at 6 June 2005, UNDOF comprised 1,028 troops from Austria (373), Canada (186), Japan (30), Poland (343), Nepal (2) and Slovakia (94). National Support Elements were employed by Canada (4) and Japan (15). In addition, 57 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) assisted the Force in carrying out its tasks. The three-year modernization programme of UNDOF facilities is in the process of completion. A map showing the deployment of the Force is attached to the present report.
III. Financial aspects
8. By its resolution 58/306 of 18 June 2004, the General Assembly appropriated the amount of $40.9 million, equivalent to $3.4 million per month, for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005. Should the Security Council decide to extend the mandate of the Force beyond 30 June 2005, as recommended in paragraph 13 below, the cost of maintaining the Force will be limited to the amounts approved by the Assembly.
9. As at 31 May 2005, unpaid assessed contributions to the UNDOF special account for the period from the inception of the Force to 31 May 2005 amounted to $13 million. Total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at the same date amounted to $2,028 million.
IV. Implementation of Security Council resolution 338 (1973)
10. The Security Council, while deciding in its resolution 1578 (2004) of 15 December 2004 to renew the mandate of UNDOF for a further period of six months, until 30 June 2005, also called upon the parties concerned to implement immediately resolution 338 (1973) and requested the Secretary-General to submit, at the end of the period, a report on developments in the situation and the measures taken to implement resolution 338 (1973). The search for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East and, in particular, the efforts undertaken at various levels to implement resolution 338 (1973) were dealt with in the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Middle East (A/59/431), submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 58/22 and 58/23 of 3 December 2003.
11. The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet. UNDOF, which was established in May 1974 to supervise the ceasefire called for by the Security Council and the agreement on disengagement between Syrian and Israeli forces of 31 May 1974, has continued to perform its functions effectively, with the cooperation of the parties.
12. Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is very tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached. I hope that determined efforts will be made by all concerned to tackle the problem in all its aspects with a view to arriving at a just and durable peace settlement, as called for by the Security Council in its resolution 338 (1973).
13. Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential. I therefore recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Force for a further period of six months, until 31 December 2005. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has given its assent to the proposed extension. The Government of Israel has also expressed its agreement.
14. In making this recommendation, I must draw attention to the shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to some $13 million. This sum represents money owed to the Member States that contribute the troops who make up the Force. I appeal to the Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears.
15. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Lieutenant General Bala Nanda Sharma and to the men and women serving with UNDOF. They have performed with efficiency and devotion to duty the important tasks assigned to them by the Security Council. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Governments contributing troops to UNDOF and to those that provide the UNTSO military observers assigned to the Force.