New Zealand applauds UN on release of Fijian soldiers

The New Zealand government on Friday congratulated the UN on securing the safe release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers who had been detained in Syria.

Wellington: The New Zealand government on Friday congratulated the UN on securing the safe release of 45 Fijian peacekeepers who had been detained in Syria.

"The safe release of the peacekeepers is an excellent outcome for the soldiers and their friends and family in Fiji," New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

"New Zealand applauds the hard work from the United Nations and others to secure their safe release," said McCully.

The 45 peacekeepers were released on Thursday afternoon and handed over to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) at a UN position in the Golan Heights, Xinhua reported citing UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"All parties in this region must respect the inviolability of United Nations peacekeepers and their right to carry out their work on behalf of the international community," McCully said. 

The Fijian peacekeepers were captured by fighters from the al-Nusra Front, Syria`s branch of the Al Qaeda, in the Golan Heights on August 28.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council both had condemned the capture of UN peacekeepers and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

The al-Nusra Front described the action as retaliation for what it called the failure of the UN to help the people of Syria in that country`s civil war, which has lasted three-and-a-half years and left more than 190,000 people dead.

It confirmed it held the peacekeepers by releasing a statement, two days after the Fijians disappeared.

Earlier on Wednesday, the group posted a video on its Twitter and YouTube accounts in which the hostages said they expected to be freed soon.

The Fijian troops are part of UNDOF, a 1,223-member peacekeeping operation that has monitored the demarcation line between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights since 1974.

India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines have also contributed troops to the operation.

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