Fiji offers more than 500 troops to Golan force—diplomats

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Austrian defence minister Gerald Klug and chancellor Werner Faymann, from left, talk to journalists after arriving the Austrian UNO soldiers at Vienna International Airport in Schwechat, Austria on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. Austria announced it is withdrawing 377 U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan Heights after Syrian rebels briefly overran a crossing point near the border with Israel on Thursday, a development that has deepened concerns the civil war is spreading to neighboring countries. (AP Photo/Hans Punz)

UNITED NATIONS—Fiji has offered more than 500 troops to the UN Golan Heights peacekeeping force after several countries withdrew because of the spillover from the Syria conflict, diplomats said Tuesday.

Fiji will supply 170 troops this month to replace Japanese and Croatian soldiers who have left in previous weeks. Diplomats said it has also offered to replace the 370 troops that Austria is withdrawing.

The Fijians will join about 341 troops from the Philippines and 193 from India. Sweden has also had talks with the UN about sending troops to the Golan.

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.

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 authorized ceiling of 1,250 troops.

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  • Free_Pacific

    Fijian troops are no longer the neutral arbiters they once were. The country is run by a Chinese backed dictator and is similar to Cambodia. As China is supporting Assad in the civil war, any Fijian troops will also be susceptible to Chinese pressure.

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