The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has come out in support of an Indian Lt General saying he acted as per the rule book, a day after a Filipino officer accused him of endangering the safety of peacekeeping troops from Philippines during a stand-off with Syrian rebels over the last weekend.
The Chief of Staff of the UNDOF in Syria, an official from Philippines, had resigned citing differences in handling the Golan Heights crisis with force commander Indian Lt General Iqbal Singh Singha alleging that “the UNDOF commander wanted to save the Fijians at the expense of the Filipinos”.
The Philippines military has reportedly sought probe against Lt Gen Singha pertaining to standoff at the Golan Heights wherein 44 Fijian peacekeepers of the UNDOF were abducted by one al Nusra, a Syrian rebel group. The Filipino officer said that Singha had ordered the Filipino peacekeepers in the UNDOF to “lay down their weapons” to ensure safety of the Fijian peacekeepers.
Backing the Indian official, the UN mission in a statement said, “Philippines bypassed the chain of command and the permanent representative of Philippines in UN , New York, COAS, Philippines and the erstwhile Force Commander of UNDOF, Maj General (Retired) Natalio Ecarma III (presently deputy minister in Philippines), adversely interfered in the decision making mechanics of UNDOF, jeopardising the safety of own and Fijian troops.”
“The field commander was in constant touch with the Position commanders directly and was appreciating their brave stand and exhorted them to stay calm and not aggravate the situation as efforts were ongoing for their safe passage .It may be recalled that on four occasions in the past the FC had successfully handled similar situations,” it said.
According to the note, the COS of the mission — the Filipino officer who resigned — took orders from “Manila and acted with myopic focus only on the contingent, compromising the mission planning to ensure safety of all peacekeepers irrespective of contingents”.
“These interference further deteriorated the operational capability of the Philippines contingent which after the announcement of their withdrawal from the mission in the third week of August 14, were losing interest and displayed considerable drop in performance,” it stated.