MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti) – Israel is ready to discuss the possible deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the disputed Golan Heights region between Syria and Israel, the Israeli ambassador to Russia said Tuesday.
“I think that this issue will be discussed and, if the sides manage to come to an agreement, this [a Russian peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights] is possible. Permission from the United Nations is required. And Israel is always open to solutions for such issues,” Ambassador Dorit Golender said.
The UN-monitored buffer zone in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was set up to separate Israeli and Syrian forces after the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. Although it is de-jure on Syrian territory, it has been occupied and annexed by Israel since the war. Ownership of the strategically important Golan Heights remains one of the main points of contention between the two nations.
In early June, Austria announced that it was withdrawing its 377 troops from the United Nations’ 1,100-strong peacekeeping force in the area following intense fighting between pro-government and opposition forces in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that Russia was ready to deploy troops to the Golan Heights to replace the Austrian peacekeepers.
However, consent from both Israel and Syria is required to review the UN peacekeeping mandate, which prohibits any permanent UN Security Council member, including Russia, from deploying its peacekeepers to the region.
Syria has already welcomed Moscow’s proposal, but Israeli officials refused to publicly comment on the initiative. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said last month that the Israelis were “not ready to have a Russian peacekeeping force in the area.”