Reading an agreed statement to the press, Ambassador Samantha Power of the United States, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, said its members again strongly condemned the detention of 45 Fijian peacekeepers “by a Security Council-designated terrorist organization.”The Fijian peacekeepers, serving with the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), monitoring a ceasefire established in 1974 between Israel and Syria, were detained on 28 August, by armed elements of the Syrian opposition in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.In a separate incident, 72 Filipino peacekeepers that had been surrounded by armed elements in two different locations in the Golan were later safely relocated.Ms. Power said today that Council members welcomed news that all Filipino peacekeepers are now safe, and they commended the efforts of UNDOF’s Quick Reaction Force.“They reiterated their call for the peacekeepers’ immediate and unconditional release. There can never be any justification for attacks on or the detention of UN peacekeepers,” she said. Further to the statement, she said the Council insisted that UNDOF’s mandate, impartiality, operations, safety, and security must be respected. To that end, Council members demanded “all groups other than UNDOF must abandon all UNDOF positions and the Quneitra crossing point, and return the peacekeepers’ vehicles, weapons, and other equipment.”Council members commended UNDOF’s peacekeepers for their bravery in facing the threats and challenges in their area of operation, Ms. Power said, adding that they called on all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel.“They also called upon countries with influence to strongly convey to those responsible to immediately release the peacekeepers,” she added.The Council’s statement came immediately after a closed-door briefing by Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous concerning the welfare of UNDOF peacekeepers in the Golan. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Ladsous explained that for years, UNDOF’s area of operation had been “relatively quiet,” but as the situation in the region became more dangerous and unpredictable, especially amid the ongoing conflict in Syria, the area had seen the increased presence of armed groups. Those groups were increasingly engaging with Syrian armed forces.“This was the case last week when large numbers of armed groups launched an attack in the area of separation [monitored by UNDOF]. As things stand, we still have 45 peacekeepers from Fiji still being detained,” he said, adding: “It is our goal – and what we demand – to achieve the immediate, safe and unconditional release of these peacekeepers.” The situation made clear that it was very important that UNDOF’s mandate continue, said Mr. Ladsous, noting that the situation is “very challenging” and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is sparing no effort to ensure the safe return of the detained peacekeepers, while also working to improve the mission’s military equipment and medical facilities. He went on to commend the performance of the peacekeepers and especially the UNDOF Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha. Responding to questions regarding the reported tender of resignation of another ranking Filipino UNDOF military official, Mr. Ladsous said it was important to recognize that all the detained Filipino troops had either escaped or been recovered during the operation launched by the Quick Reaction Force.“The situation on the ground is a fluid one and the decision was to launch the Quick Reaction Force to extract the peacekeepers. General Singha exercised good, solid judgement [throughout] the process,” said Mr. Ladsous. To another question on adjustments to UNDOF in the wake of the recent incidents and the spate of similar incidents the peacekeepers faced last year, he said the mission’s mandate was based on the 1974 agreement between Israel and Syria, and that would remain the framework of UNDOF’s operations. “[Yet] no one could have factored in what is currently going on in the area of separation,” he said, so while it would be up to the parties to discuss changes, DPKO has been working to address safety issues, medical care and adjust patterns of monitoring patrol.
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Austin Engineering has announced the signing of a significant three year supply agreement with Vale. Equipment will be ordered by Vale and supplied in accordance with its requirements, as determined by its ongoing production schedules and equipment replacement programs. Vale has informed Austin that the previous contract was for a total of $200 million and that the current contract will be split between two companies, with Austin receiving the larger part of the contract.The contract in the first year is for an initial value of up to $59 million of equipment. Vale will review its requirements after the first year and then on a six monthly basis in light of its equipment needs and operating budgets. Further amendments to the contract value will then be issued as required. The contract provides Vale with a range of equipment at fixed prices, adjusted as necessary on an annual basis, with cost escalation. Austin’s scope includes a number of products from its product range such as dump truck bodies, buckets and ancillary equipment. Other products “may be considered by Vale as the contract progresses.”Vale has also confirmed that it will discuss with Austin the adoption of scheduled maintenance programs of the kind used by Austin in its Pilbara Hire service and repair business. If these programs are introduced, it will provide Austin a source of recurring reliable repair and maintenance earnings. The ability to plan for the delivery of this work in advance will also assist Austin with maximising efficiencies.The delivery of products will be from Austin’s Chilean and Colombian facilities to the Brazilian border, where Vale will arrange for the crossover into Brazil. Austin will be responsible for the assembly of the products in Brazil. The purchase of two facilities, with existing small workshops and land for expansion, will be pursued in order to enable products to be assembled and maintenance services to be provided. A number of possible sites and businesses have already been identified in Belo Horizonte and Belem. In the interim, assembly will be subcontracted to local service providers. Vale’s other international operations will also have access through this agreement to Austin’s range of products and services from its other worldwide production facilities.The company had expected that initial deliveries would have started in August 2013, however with product requirements, specifications and associated engineering activities yet to be completed, revenue streams from the contract are now expected to commence from March 2014 onwards.Commenting on the contract Managing Director Michael Buckland said “This is a very important contract for the company and it continues our successful strategy for expansion into South America. The contract has been in negotiation for over a year and it is pleasing to bring it to a successful conclusion and for Vale to recognise Austin as a preferred supplier of mining products. We see this as only a commencement of our expansion strategy in Brazil and we are confident that the establishment of operations in the country will lead to orders from other Brazilian mining customers. There is significant potential for exponential growth in revenue and profitability over the coming years from our operations throughout South America.”