The United Nations has turned down Russia’s offer of sending troops to the Golan Heights to replace the Austrian peacekeepers that are withdrawing from the region.
Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the UN peacekeeping department, said on Friday that the proposal was appreciated but would not be considered as Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Austria announced on Thursday that it was withdrawing its 377-strong peacekeeping force in the 911-member UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) from the Golan Heights after tensions escalated between Syrian troops and militants in the region.
“Naturally, that will happen only if the regional powers show interest in our proposal and if the UN secretary general asks us to do that,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
On Thursday, Syrian forces took control of Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights that had been briefly overrun by the militants.
Two UN peacekeepers sustained injuries as fighting raged around the crossing. Quneitra is the only open crossing between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967, when it also took control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, although the move was never recognized by the international community and was a violation of international law.