The United Nations, Israel and Syria have agreed to reopen the Quneitra crossing in the Golan Heights on Monday, the US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.
Haley said in a statement that the opening “will allow UN peacekeepers to step up their efforts to prevent hostilities in the Golan Heights region”.
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has been monitoring operations in a demilitarised zone established in 1974 between the Israeli-occupied Golan and the Syrian sector, but the peacekeeping mission was disrupted by Syria’s civil war.
UNDOF resumed its patrols in the area of the crossing point in August, after withdrawing in 2014 when Al-Qaeda-linked rebels overran the area, three years into the civil war.
UNDOF’s return was made possible after Syrian government troops retook the Syrian side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Moscow.
It had been sealed completely since rebels overran it in April 2015, choking off one of the most important trade routes for the government.
Israel captured the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war and fought Syria again on the strategic plateau in a 1973 conflict.
“We look to both Israel and Syria to provide UN peacekeepers the access they need as well as assurances of their safety. We also call on Syria to take the necessary steps so UNDOF can safely and effectively deploy and patrol without interference,” Haley said.
Haley added that all sides must stick to a 1974 agreement and keep any military forces other than UN peacekeepers out of the zone.
Military police from Russia, a major ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, have been patrolling on the Syrian side of Quneitra.
The Quneitra crossing was used by Druze living on the Israeli side travelling to Syria for higher education or weddings. Druze farmers also exported apples to Syria through Quneitra.