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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Irish Defence Forces An Irish soldier in the Golan Heights, Syria.
Peace missions

Government renews approval for Irish peacekeeping missions in Syria and Kosovo

Irish troops are based in the Golan Heights and the Kosovar capital Pristina in UN mandated operations.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS cleared the way for Irish Defence Forces peacekeepers to continue their missions in Kosovo and Syria. 

The Middle East mission comes under the title United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and 138 troops are based on the Syrian side of demarcation in the Golan Heights. 

The Kosovo mission is based in Pristina and is part of the UN-authorised, NATO-led operation dubbed Kosovo Force (KFOR). Although Ireland had a much larger contingent of troops in the country in previous years it now has 13 members of the Irish Defence Forces based in the NATO headquarters in the city. 

The discussions at Cabinet on Tuesday were introduced by the Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. He sought approval for continued service in UNDOF and KFOR for twelve months.

No Dáil approval is required for the troops deployment to the missions. 

Ireland is currently deployed on a number of missions to the Balkan region, Lebanon, as well as operations two operations in Mali and Congo.   

Golan Heights

UNDOF was established in 1974 by the UN Security Council – there has been an unbroken mandate since. The current agreement expires at the end of the month on 30 June 2022 but is expected to be renewed.

Ireland first deployed troops to UNDOF in June 2013. A fresh contingent from the 65th Infantry Group began their tour in Syria in April 2022 for a six-month tour of duty.

The soldiers are located in the Golan Heights – a contested stretch of land fought over by Israel and Syrian forces in the Yom Kippur War. 

The Irish troops patrol in an observation role in an area of separation, which is 80km long and varies from 10km to 1km in width. UNDOF is the only military presence allowed in the area of separation, and it has 44 manned positions and 11 observation posts.

The Irish Defence Forces have said that the 62 Infantry Group have conducted more than 75 patrols, exercises with unarmed military observers, as well as a variety of engineer tasks in which they made unoccupied UN posts safe for analysis and potential

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday morning that Simon Coveney visited refugee camps on the Syrian/Turkish border accompanied by his Norwegian counterpart Anniken Huitfeldt. The Irish delegation on the United Nations Security Council has responsibility, along with Norway, for the Syrian humanitarian file.  

The KFOR mission is based in Pristina and was established after the 1998-1999 war for independence from Serbia ended following a 78-day NATO air campaign against Serbian troops.

51829373690_5bcb640a77_o Irish Defence Forces Irish troops on public order duty during a KFOR mission. Irish Defence Forces


In 2008, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia – the Serbian Government has not recognised their independence and the continued NATO presence is to prevent more hostilities in the Balkan country.

War crimes investigations of both Kosovar and Serbian forces are still ongoing. Just days ago, on 9 June, the former Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s detention was further extended, as he faces trial for war crimes at The Hague. 

Thaci, a former senior officer in the Kosovo Liberation Army, is one of several politicians who have been indicted for crimes that include murder, enforced disappearances, persecution and torture.

The formation of the court and prosecutor’s office followed a 2011 report by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, that included allegations that KLA fighters trafficked human organs taken from prisoners and killed Serbs and fellow ethnic Albanians. 

Serbian fighters were accused of the forced relocation and murder of civilians during the conflict.

KFOR focuses on building a secure environment. Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. It is proposed that up to 13 personnel will continue to be retained in KFOR HQ in support of the mission.

The Irish troops work in logistics, public affairs branch and general management roles. 

The cost of participation in both missions will be covered in the current allocation and the cabinet heard that future costs will be covered in the Defence Estimates for 2023 following discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. 


The current Mali mission, MINUSMA, involves Irish troops drawn from the elite Army Ranger Wing (ARW). They are based in the North of the war-torn African country located in the West African area of the Sahel region. 

The ARW, in conjunction with German Defence Forces, have been operating in the area since September 2019 – their mission involves long distance reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations on groups linked to Islamic State. 

50824660467_284b0f57fb_o Irish Defence Forces Irish Army Ranger Wing soldiers speaking to locals while on patrol in Mali. Irish Defence Forces

There are also 20 Irish troops on the European Union Training Mission in Mali.  

It is understood that the ARW will end their deployment to the country in September. Security sources have told The Journal that it may become a conventional force mission in the future with some speculation that a group from the Irish Defence Forces could be sent to the country to participate in peace enforcement operations. 

Another African mission in which Irish troops are involved is the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is an operation monitoring and observing the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement between warring factions – three troops are deployed on that operation.  

The UN Security Council is set to discuss the situation in Congo on 29 June along with Mali and UNDOF. 

The Council will also hold a briefing and consultation on Syria on the same date.

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