Last updated: 9 March, 2013

Ban says Syrian rivals must respect UN’s “impartiality”

UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Saturday welcomed the release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers held by Syrian rebels but said all sides in the conflict must respect the UN’s “impartiality.”

Ban “appreciates the efforts of all concerned to secure their safe release,” said a statement released by his press office after the 21 crossed from Syria into Jordan.

The 21 members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors a ceasefire between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, were abducted on Wednesday.

“The secretary general emphasizes to all parties the impartiality of United Nations peacekeepers,” said Ban’s statement.

“UNDOF is on the ground to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. The secretary general calls on all parties to respect UNDOF’s freedom of movement and the safety and security of its personnel. He also calls on them to respect and uphold the protection of civilians.”

One attempt to get the troops out of the village of Jamla on Friday was halted because of shelling by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.