UN chief accuses Syria of violating buffer zone with Israel

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2015 3:18 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of violating a 1974 agreement creating a buffer zone between Syria and Israel and warned that firing back and forth across the separation line jeopardizes the cease-fire between the two countries.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council circulated Tuesday, the U.N. chief also criticized the increased use of heavy weapons, including tanks, by the Syrian government and armed groups that control "significant sections" of the separation area.

Ban said that there should be no military forces in the area of separation except U.N. peacekeepers.

The U.N. force started patrolling the Israel-Syria buffer zone a year after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and helped enforce a stable truce between the two countries for nearly four decades.

Ban stressed that both Syria and Israel have reiterated their continued commitment to the 1974 agreement, and urged them to adhere to it.

But the Syrian war, now entering its fifth year, has spilled into the zone, with intense fighting and even the abduction of U.N. peacekeepers by al-Qaida-linked rebels.

The abductions prompted several countries to withdraw their soldiers from peacekeeping efforts forcing the U.N. to adjust the deployment to minimize security risks.

Ban called on countries with influence to convey to the armed groups in the peacekeeping zone to "cease any actions that jeopardize the safety and security of United Nations personnel."

He stressed that peacekeepers needs to retain "the confidence and commitment of troop-contributing countries" and expressed gratitude to the governments of Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands for contributing soldiers to the force.