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Philippines welcomes release of peacekeepers

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Philippine government on Sunday welcomed the release of its 21 UN peacekeepers after they were freed by Syrian rebels and crossed to Jordan, where officials waited to receive them.

The troops, members of a UN force monitoring a 1974 ceasefire between Syria and Israel, were abducted on Wednesday.

"The Philippine government and its people express deep appreciation to the Jordanian government and military officials on the successful safe passing over to the Jordanian side of all our 21 Filipino peacekeepers," a statement said.

Military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said the peacekeepers' battalion commander and one of the freed officers had personally confirmed by telephone that they were in Jordanian custody.

"The 21 peacekeepers are in the custody of the Jordanian border patrol headquarters. The Philippine ambassador is coordinating directly with Jordanian authorities and is ready to receive the 21 peacekeepers," he told reporters.

He said the group's commander had already met with the freed men, adding that they would be staying in a hotel in Amman for two days before being transferred back to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

Jordanian government spokesman Samih Maaytah earlier said the troops had arrived in the country Saturday.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs also stressed the impartiality of the UNDOF the men were serving with and called on all parties to respect their freedom of movement and safety.

The hostages were part of a 300-member Philippine Army force deployed with the force since November last year.

str-mm/mtp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130309/philippines-welcomes-release-peacekeepers