Putin: Russia ready to replace Austrian peacekeepers in Golan Heights
Statement by Russian president comes a day after Vienna announced it would recall its troops from a UN monitoring force due to worsening fighting in Syria; UN welcomes Russia's offer.
President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia is ready to send peacekeepers to the Golan Heights to replace Austrian forces after Vienna said it would recall its troops from a UN monitoring force due to worsening fighting in Syria.
"We could replace the leaving Austrian contingent in this region on the border between Israeli troops and the Syrian army," Putin told the RIA Novosti news agency.
UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Hak told RIA Novosti on Friday that the UN would welcome Russia's contribution to the peacekeeping efforts.
Following the battles at Quneitra in Syria early on Thursday morning, Austria announced it was withdrawing its troops that serve in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan.
On Thursday, Israel demanded that the United Nations replace the Austrian soldiers as soon as possible.
Austrians account for some 380 of the 1,100-strong UN force monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel and their departure will deal a serious blow to the mission. Israeli ambassador in Vienna Aviv Shir-On was told by the Austrian Foreign Ministry Thursday about the decision to pull out the UNDOF troops.
Shortly afterward the ministry's director general briefed his Israeli counterpart.
In response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said in a statement that Israel "expects the United Nations to uphold its commitment under Security Council Resolution 350 (1974), in virtue of which UNDOF has been established."
In the statement Palmor emphasized that, while Israel appreciates, "Austria's longtime contribution and commitment to peacekeeping in the Middle East, we nevertheless regret this decision and hope that it will not be conducive to further escalation in the region."