Germany calls Austrian Golan pullout 'regrettable'

7th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

Germany on Friday called an Austrian decision to withdraw from a UN monitoring force in the Golan Heights "regrettable" but said it reflected how "dangerous" the Middle East had become.

"We followed the announcement very closely -- it is of course regrettable but we can see in Berlin how the conclusion was drawn," a foreign ministry spokesman told a regular media briefing.

"At the same time the decision shows that the situation in the region is very dangerous -- it is an indication how the situation in the whole region has escalated and how great the danger of a conflagration is."

Austria said Thursday it would withdraw peacekeepers from the UN force, citing deteriorating security after new clashes between Syrian troops and rebels in the Golan.

The Philippines said it was studying a similar move after one of its soldiers was wounded in the fierce fighting.

Because of the bloodshed, the stability and makeup of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which has monitored a ceasefire between Israel and Syria since 1974, has come into question.

Austria, which has been a cornerstone of UNDOF, provides 377 soldiers or more than a third of the force.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday that Russian peacekeepers replace the departing Austrians.

The Kremlin chief stressed that this was only a proposal and that a formal request had to come from the United Nations and be agreed with both Israel and Syria, a Moscow ally.

© 2013 AFP

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