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Offline mayya

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Fijian UN peacekeepers: New York negotiators continue talks to release soldiers

By Dominique Schwartz
Updated 3 Sep 2014, 4:37pmWed 3 Sep 2014, 4:37pm

PHOTO: Islamist Nusra Front has released this unverified picture of what it says are some of the Fijian UN peacekeepers detained in Golan Heights (Twitter: khorasan313)

 Fiji's military commander says specialist negotiators from New York are in Syria trying to secure the release of its United Nations peacekeepers taken hostage a week ago.

The 45 Fijian peacekeepers were captured near the Syrian-Israeli border last Wednesday by fighters from an Al Qaeda-linked group called Nusra Front.

Fiji's military commander, Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga, said intense negotiations are continuing.

"The rebels are not telling us where the troops are but they continue to reassure us that they are being looked after, fed well and kept safe," he said.

Brigadier General Tikoitoga said the UN was continuing to ensure its full support and is making all neccessary resources available.

The rebels are demanding humanitarian assistance, and that their group be struck off the UN terrorist list.

Pros and cons of peacekeeping

For Fijian peacekeepers working for the UN, the money and experience are good, but the dangers are real.

Meanwhile, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said the challenges facing peacekeepers in conflict areas could lead to a review of their role by the UN.

ASPI analyst Lisa Sharland said peacekeeping in countries like Syria and Israel was becoming increasingly complicated.

"One of the things that the UN is going to be continuing to look at is how to ensure that the personnel deployed there, that their safety is best assured, in an environment that is increasingly complex," she said.

"It is something that is going to remain on the radar of the Security Council in the coming weeks."
In the Fijian capital Suva, about 200 people attended a vigil on Tuesday night to pray for the peacekeepers.