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1. The present report gives an account of the activities of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) during the past six months pursuant to the mandate contained in Security Council resolution 350 (1974) and extended in subsequent resolutions, most recently resolution 1648 (2005) of 21 December 2005.
II. Situation in the area and activities of the Force
2. During the period under review the ceasefire in the Israel-Syria sector was maintained and the UNDOF area of operations remained generally quiet except in the Shab’a farms area (area 6), which experienced activity originating from the area of operation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), described in my reports on UNIFIL.
3. UNDOF supervised the area of separation by means of fixed positions and patrols to ensure that military forces of either party were excluded from it. The Force also carried out fortnightly inspections of equipment and force levels in the areas of limitation. Liaison officers from the party concerned accompanied the inspection teams. As in the past, both sides denied inspection teams access to some of their positions and imposed some restrictions on the Force’s freedom of movement. In addition, Israeli national Customs officials continued to operate at the Israel Defense Forces post at the UNDOF crossing gate between the Israeli-occupied Golan and the Syrian Arab Republic.
4. The Force continued to assist the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with the passage of persons through the area of separation. During the past six months, UNDOF assisted in the crossing of 28 students and two farmers, and provided protection at two weddings. In cooperation with ICRC, UNDOF also coordinated the transfer of 4,500 tons of apples through the area of separation from the Israeli side to the Syrian side. Within the means available, medical treatment was provided to the local population upon request.
5. In the area of operation, especially in the area of separation, mines continued to pose a threat to UNDOF personnel and local inhabitants. Owing to the age of the mines and their deteriorating explosives, this threat has increased. UNDOF continued to carry out operational mine clearance. At the request of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, UNDOF supervised demining work carried out by a Syrian civilian demining company in the villages of Al Hamidiyah and Abu Khayt in the area of separation. UNDOF remained available to support the United Nations Children’s Fund in activities to promote mine awareness among the civilian population.
6. The Force Commander and his staff maintained close contact with the military authorities of Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic. Both sides generally cooperated with the Force in the execution of its tasks.
7. During the reporting period, the Canadian logistics support element was withdrawn and replaced by a contingent from India. As at 1 June 2006, UNDOF comprised 1,047 troops, from Austria (375), Canada (4), India (187), Japan (30), Nepal (2), Poland (354) and Slovakia (95). A total of 15 personnel were employed by Japan as a national support element. In addition, 79 military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) assisted the Force in carrying out its tasks. All components of the three-year modernization programme of UNDOF facilities have been completed. A map showing the deployment of the Force is attached to the present report.
III. Financial aspects
8. By its resolution 59/306 of 22 June 2005, the General Assembly appropriated the amount of $41.5 million, equivalent to $3.5 million per month, for the maintenance of the Force for the period from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. Should the Council decide to extend the mandate of the Force beyond 30 June 2006, as recommended in paragraph 13 below, the cost of maintaining the Force will be limited to the amounts approved by the General Assembly.
9. As at 30 April 2006, unpaid assessed contributions to the UNDOF special account for the period from the inception of the Force to 31 January 2006 amounted to $33.8 million. Total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations as at the same date amounted to $2,664.4 million. As at 30 April 2006, amounts owed to troop contributors totalled $3.6 million. Reimbursement of troop and contingent-owned equipment costs have been made for the periods up to 31 January 2006 and 31 December 2005, respectively, in accordance with the quarterly payment schedule.
IV. Implementation of Security Council resolution 338 (1973)
10. The Security Council, when deciding in its resolution 1648 (2005) to renew the mandate of UNDOF for a further period of six months, until 30 June 2006, also called upon the parties concerned to implement immediately its resolution 338 (1973), and requested the Secretary-General to submit, at the end of the period, a report on developments in the situation and the measures taken to implement that resolution. The search for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, and in particular the efforts undertaken at various levels to implement resolution 338 (1973), was dealt with in the report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Middle East (A/60/258) submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolutions 59/32 and 59/33.
11. The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet. UNDOF, which was established in May 1974 to supervise the ceasefire called for by the Security Council and the agreement on disengagement between Syrian and Israeli forces of 31 May 1974, has continued to perform its function effectively, with the cooperation of the parties.
12. Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is very tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached. I hope that determined efforts will be made by all concerned to tackle the problem in all its aspects, with a view to arriving at a just and durable peace settlement, as called for by the Security Council in its resolution 338 (1973).
13. Under the prevailing circumstances, I consider the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential. I therefore recommend that the Security Council extend the mandate of the Force for a further period of six months, until 31 December 2006. The Government of the Syrian Arab Republic has given its assent to the proposed extension. The Government of Israel has also expressed its agreement.
14. In making this recommendation, I must draw attention to the shortfall in the funding of the Force. At present, unpaid assessments amount to some $33.8 million. The sum represents money owed to the Member States that contribute the troops who make up the Force. I appeal to all Member States to pay their assessments promptly and in full and to clear all remaining arrears.
15. In conclusion, I wish to pay tribute to Lieutenant General Bala Nanda Sharma and to the men and women serving with UNDOF. They have performed with efficiency and devotion to duty the important tasks assigned to them by the Security Council. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Governments contributing troops to UNDOF and to those that provide the UNTSO military observers assigned to the Force.