United Nations, Feb 4 (IANS) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major General Jai Shankar Menon to head the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors the Syria-Israel ceasefire in the Golan Heights.
Menon succeeds Lieutenant General Purna Chandra Thapa of Nepal whose assignment ends on Sunday. Menon was Additional Director General for Equipment Management in the Indian Army.
Announcing the appointment Tuesday, Ban’s deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said, “Menon brings to his new position extensive command experience and knowledge of peacekeeping affairs at the national and international levels.”
Menon is familiar with the region having served with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 2007 to 2009. UNDOF was set up in 1974 to supervise the ceasefire and disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the area seized by Israel during the 1967 War.
His appointment as UNDOF Head of Mission and Force Commander comes at a time of heightened tension with Syria engulfed in a multilateral civil war involving the government headed by President Hafez al-Assad backed by Iran and Russia; rebels supported by Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries and the West, and the Islamic State, the fundamentalist terrorist group.
The Syrian side that UNDOF monitors is still under the control of the beleaguered forces loyal to al-Assad.
UNDOF has 947 personnel, 789 of them blue-helmeted troops, including 190 from India.
Menon’s previous assignments include General Officer Commanding of an infantry division, commandant of the Regimental Training Centre, brigade commander and Military Observer with the UN Operation in Mozambique.