UN peacekeeper vehicles leave the UN headquarters in the Golan Heights on March 8, 2013
UN peacekeeper vehicles leave the UN headquarters in the demilitarized United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) zone in the Golan Heights on March 8, 2013. Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged the United Nations Tuesday to provide more security to its depleted peacekeeping force in Syria's Golan Heights so the Filipino contingent could stay. © Jack Guez - AFP/File
UN peacekeeper vehicles leave the UN headquarters in the Golan Heights on March 8, 2013
AFP
Last updated: June 11, 2013

Philippines seeks more security for Golan Heights troops

Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged the United Nations Tuesday to provide more security to its depleted peacekeeping force in Syria's Golan Heights so the Filipino contingent could stay.

Aquino was meeting his top security advisers during the day to discuss a recommendation by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario to bring the Filipino troops home soon, after some were briefly kidnapped by Syrian rebels.

"We want to help. But if we are asked to perform something that is impossible, what is the use of staying there? Our assessment is that we can no longer accomplish the mission," Aquino told reporters.

Austria will start pulling out its 377 troops from the UN Disengagement Observer Force on Wednesday, leaving the unit with just 341 troops from the Philippines and 193 from India.

Japan and Croatia have also withdrawn in recent months as battles between Syrian government and opposition forces spread into the ceasefire zone.

UN peacekeeping officials told emergency Security Council talks Friday that they were trying to persuade the Philippines and India not to withdraw and even to increase their contingents, diplomats said.

The UN is also trying to persuade Austria to slow down its withdrawal, which is set to be completed in four weeks.

Aquino said Tuesday the force needed more equipment and revised "standard operating procedures" to improve the troops' security.

"If these conditions remain unchanged, the mission would become 'un-doable' and our troops would be put at the mercy of two clashing forces, unable to defend themselves."

He said the peacekeepers' situation had become more tenuous by the day, after one Filipino peacekeeper was wounded Friday by wayward mortar fire amid a fight between Syrian troops and rebels.

Aquino said he was also concerned about the security of small Filipino peacekeeping contingents elsewhere, including a two-member Filipino unit in South Sudan.

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