The Philippines on Sunday welcomed the release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers seized by Syrian rebels and called on all parties to respect the freedom of movement of UN peace missions, dpa reported.
The Filipinos were turned over to Jordanian authorities on Saturday after three days in captivity by Syrian rebels who demanded that regime troops withdrew from the south of the country.
"The release is a big sigh of relief for their families and we in the armed forces of the Philippines are very thankful for this outcome," said Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, spokesman for the Philippine military.
The soldiers were part of the Philippines' 333-strong contingent, which in November joined the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission to enforce a ceasefire in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Philippine foreign ministry stressed the impartiality of the UNDOF and urged all groups to ensure their safety.
"Indeed, this respect of freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers must be extended to all United Nations peacekeeping missions consistent with commitments and obligations under international law," the department said in a statement.
The Filipino peacekeepers were expected to return to Golan Heights after resting and undergoing medical check-up for two days, according to Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine foreign ministry.
"Our troops are trained for these situations so the plan is for them to return to Golan Heights with UNDOF," he told a Manila radio station. "They are safe, they are unharmed, they are okay, and they are whole."