Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Questions (133, 134)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

133. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of his itinerary while he was visiting Irish soldiers on the Golan Heights and in the region. [16638/19]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

134. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the communications he has had with the UN regarding the shortfall in numbers in the UN mission on the Golan Heights; if the shortfall in numbers has increased the workload and duties of Irish soldiers; and if those extra duties and so on are not compromising the health or security of Irish soldiers in the region. [16639/19]

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Written answers (Question to Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.

I would like to clarify that in March 2019, as part of the Governments planned St. Patrick's Day schedule of events, I visited Cyprus, Lebanon and Jordan.  I have not visited the Golan Heights this year to date.

My most recent visit to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights took place during the period 13 to 20 March 2018.  At that time, I also visited the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) and the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

I travelled to Camp Ziouani on the Israeli side of the area of separation on 15 March 2018 where I met with the Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Francis Vib-Sanziri, who commented very positively on Ireland's contribution to the UNDOF mission. My itinerary also included briefings from the Chief of Staff of UNDOF, who at that time was Ireland's Colonel Mick Dawson.

Since then, the Irish Contingent has moved back to Camp Faouar, where the Headquarters of UNDOF is also located.  A visit to Camp Faouar to visit Irish Troops would be difficult at this time given the ongoing conflict in Syria, which would be the access point for any visit to Camp Faouar and the political situation which pertains there. However, this will be kept under review as the situation in Syria continues to evolve.