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Syria, Israel agree to resumption of key handover in controversial Golan Heights – US envoy

Middle East

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At the end of September, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman signaled his country's willingness to return to normal at the Quneitra border crossing, adding, "Now the ball is in Syrian court."

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that Israel and Syria had agreed to open the Quneitra checkpoint in the Golan Heights on Monday to help UN peacekeepers prevent "hostilities" in the region.

"We expect both Israel and Syria to give the UN peacekeepers the necessary access and security, and we call on Syria to take the necessary steps, UNDOF [the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] can safely and effectively deploy and patrol without interference, "Haley said.

READ MORE: More than half of the UN peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights – UNDOF

Their statement came a few weeks after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Jewish state was ready to re-open the Quneitra checkpoint, the only official border crossing with Syria.

"We see Syrian police and customs officials on the opposite side of the border, work is in progress, patrols of the Russian military police are over. […] We are ready to bring life back to normal, "said Lieberman after visiting the Israeli section of the intersection at the end of September.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko, Deputy Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in Syria, said that the imminent reopening of the checkpoint in Quneitra "was preceded by significant work being done by the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic with the support of the Russian aerospace forces. "

READ MORE: The Syrian Army Find Foreigner Weapons Left Behind by Terrorists in Quneitra Report

"The work at the checkpoint was started by the Russian military, by the Russian military police, first we came to the site, they checked and then carried out extensive work to demineralize the area." In the last phase, the evacuation of the territory was approved checked by the mine clearance specialists of the UN mission, "said Kuralenko.

The conditions for resuming the work of the checkpoint were created after Syrian government troops regained control of southern Syria a few months ago and UN peacekeepers returned to the dividing line with Israel.

In May 1974, Israel and Syria signed a decoupling agreement following a military conflict that took place mainly in Sinai and the Golan Heights. Under the agreement, part of the province of Quneitra was returned to the control of the Syrian government, despite the fact that the authority of Damascus in the region was disturbed by the riots that began in Syria in 2011.

READ MORE: Syrian Government, Militants Agree on Full Truce in Quneitra – Source

In 1967, after the Six-Day War, Israel took control of the Golan Heights, and in 1981 the Jewish state passed a law that declared its right to the territory, a document that was never internationally recognized.

Although it never acknowledged that Israel recognized sovereignty over the region, in 1974 the United Nations negotiated a ceasefire between the two countries, forcing Israel out of parts of the Golan Heights and the ruined capital of Quneitra province.

The dispute between Israel and Syria over the territory has yet to be resolved.



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