UNITED NATIONS, June 14 (UPI) -- It's critical that a U.N. peacekeeping mission near the Israeli border with Syria can operate freely and without risk, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Ban issued his latest report to the Security Council on the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, mandated in the 1970s to monitor a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.
Ban said it was important to ensure UNDOF peacekeepers can operate freely in the Golan Heights region given escalating regional tensions associated with civil war in Syria.
"It is equally critical that the Security Council continue to bring its influence to bear on the parties concerned to ensure that UNDOF is accorded the ability to operate freely and securely within its area of operations in order to be able to carry out its important mandate," he wrote the report presented Thursday.
UNDOF peacekeepers have been captured in the Golan Heights by "armed groups" twice since early March. They have been released both times unharmed.
The Austrian government last week said it was pulling its forces from UNDOF given security tensions in the border regions. Austria contributed about 30 percent of UNDOF's peacekeepers.
The secretary-general extended the mandate for UNDOF for six months more in light of the regional security situation. It's one of the longest mandated peacekeeping missions, set up in response to the 1973 Yom Kippur War.