Golan cross­ing point to re­open to­mor­row: US

Oman Daily Observer - - REGION -

UNITED NA­TIONS, US: The United Na­tions, Is­rael and Syria reached an agree­ment to re­open the Quneitra cross­ing in the Golan Heights on Mon­day, the United States an­nounced on Fri­day, urg­ing the two Mid­dle East coun­tries to fa­cil­i­tate the work of peace­keep­ers in the zone.

“The United States wel­comes the re-open­ing of this cross­ing, which will al­low UN peace­keep­ers to step up their ef­forts to pre­vent hos­til­i­ties in the Golan Heights re­gion,” US Am­bas­sador to the UN Nikki Ha­ley said in a state­ment.

The UN Disen­gage­ment Ob­server Force (UNDOF), with about 1,000 troops, was es­tab­lished in 1974 and mon­i­tors a cease­fire line sep­a­rat­ing Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied parts of the Golan Heights from Syria.

UNDOF re­sumed its pa­trols in the area of the cross­ing point in Au­gust, af­ter with­draw­ing in 2014 when Al Qaeda-linked rebels over­ran the area, three years into Syria’s civil war.

UNDOF’S re­turn was made pos­si­ble af­ter Syr­ian govern­ment troops re­took the Syr­ian side of the cross­ing in July un­der a deal with rebel fight­ers bro­kered by Moscow.

It had been sealed com­pletely since rebels over­ran it in April 2015.

“We look to both Is­rael and Syria to pro­vide UN peace­keep­ers the ac­cess they need as well as as­sur­ances of their safety,” Ha­ley said.

“We also call on Syria to take the nec­es­sary steps so UNDOF can safely and ef­fec­tively de­ploy and pa­trol without in­ter­fer­ence.”

Ha­ley added that all sides must stick to a 1974 agree­ment and “keep any mil­i­tary forces other than UN peace­keep­ers out of the area.”

Is­rael seized much of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-day War of 1967 and later an­nexed it in a move not recog­nised by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

The Quneitra cross­ing was used by Druze liv­ing on the Is­raeli side trav­el­ling to Syria for higher ed­u­ca­tion or wed­dings. Druze farm­ers also ex­ported ap­ples to Syria through Quneitra.

— Reuters File Photo

UN Disen­gage­ment Ob­server Force per­son­nel climb onto an APC af­ter they crossed the bor­der from Syria to Is­rael at the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied Golan Heights side on July 26.

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