Croatian President Stjepan Mesić on Wednesday started his visit to Croatian soldiers serving in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission in camp Faouar in the Golan Heights by reviewing soldiers serving in the mission, who lined up in his honour.
After the Croatian national anthem was played, President Mesić performed a review of Croatian, Austrian, Indian, Japanese, Polish and Canadian troops in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Croatian Armed Forces.
General Wolfgang Jilke, UNDOF commander, greeted President Mesic in Croatian, saying that it was a rare occasion to see the president of a country participating in the mission visit the area, especially at Christmas. Peace in the Middle East is a slow and sometimes painful process, and it would not be possible without the participation of countries like Croatia, which are willing to commit to this very important process, Jilke said, adding that Croatian troops had fully integrated with the UNDOF mission.
Addressing the soldiers, President Mesić said he was proud that the second Croatian contingent was serving in the UNDOF mission and recalled that Croatia had transformed, in a short period of time, from a country receiving UN forces to an active participant in peace missions around the world.
Croatian soldiers today participate in 13 international peace missions, including 11 UN-led ones, he said. I believe it is possible to find soon an acceptable solution for all sides in the conflict whose area of separation you supervise, President Mesić said, offering the soldiers his best wishes for Christmas and New Year.
President Mesić also saw a presentation on the UNDOF mission, which was established in 1974 by a UN Security Council resolution. The resolution determined a separation line between Israel and Syria following the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
In March this year, the Croatian parliament approved the sending of Croatian troops to the Golan Heights, and the first company of soldiers left the country in June. The second company was sent to replace the first one in early December. Croatian soldiers are serving in the mission as part of an Austrian battalion.
The UN mission in the Golan Heights is a mission of moderate risk, since there have been no conflicts in the area for some time.
This evening, President Mesić will attend Christmas Eve Mass to be served for the Croatian contingent at Faouar. The Croatian president will spend the night in the camp, and on Thursday he will visit positions held by Croatian troops.