UN negotiating release of UN peacekeepers held by Syrian militants

The UN Security Council issued a statement on Wednesday to demand the immediate and unconditional release of UN peacekeepers held by a group of Syrian militants in the Golan Heights.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which presides over the UN Security Council in March, read out the statement. He said the UN Secretariat was negotiating the release and expecting the immediate fulfillment of the UN demand.

"The members of the Security Council demanded the unconditional and immediate release of all the detained UN peacekeepers and called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel," Churkin said.

The group of UN peacekeepers was seized on Wednesday by "armed elements of the Syrian opposition."

Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, told the UN Security Council that the militants who seized the peacekeepers were connected to Syrian armed opposition groups, Churkin noted.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the incident. "The Secretary-General reminds all actors in Syria that UNDOF is mandated to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. UNDOF's freedom of movement and safety and security must be respected by all parties," his spokesperson said in a statement.

The militants posted a video on YouTube to claim they had seized UN observers in the Golan Heights.

Updated reports said some 20 UNDOF peacekeepers were captured. A man who identified himself as a member of the "Martyrs of Yarmouk" brigade said the peacekeepers would not be released until the withdrawal of forces of the regime of Bashar al-Assad from the outskirts of the village of Jamla.

He was standing in front of two white armored vehicles and a truck with the UN emblem. At least three people in the video were wearing light blue UN helmets.

Peacekeepers serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel after their 1973 war.

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