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NZ contributing to regional and int security

New Zealand continues to contribute to regional and international security

Up to 120 Defence Force personnel, including two helicopter crews and an infantry platoon, will remain with the multi-national Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands for a further two months, Defence Minister Mark Burton announced today.

Mark Burton says that the mission, which began 24 July 2003, has clearly been a success.

“Working together with other Pacific nations, we have been able to restore security in the Solomon Islands—quite an achievement in less than a year. Police have done an outstanding job in removing weapons from criminal elements and gangs. Our defence personnel have played a key role in supporting the Police and facilitating civil and humanitarian assistance. They have provided helicopter transport, engineers for refurbishment of facilities, and medical staff for community level medical support.

“After three years of serious law and order breakdown, combined with rapidly declining economic conditions, Solomon Islands is on the road to stability. Police operations can increasingly be undertaken without military support, and attention is now on restoring infrastructure and key services. With an NZAID allocation of $14 million annually, Solomon Islands is our largest aid partner. Our aim is to make a difference long-term.”

New Zealand is likely, along with Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga, to largely withdraw its military presence in Solomon Islands at the end of July. Future military contributions will be discussed later this year.

Mark Burton also announced that New Zealand will send a ten-person Liaison and Observation Team to Bosnia and Herzegovina this month. This replaces a previously planned contribution to the multi-national Stabilisation Force, which is currently being restructured.

“New Zealand has been active in the restoration of peace in Bosnia for the past 12 years, most recently with the Stabilisation Force. NATO’s recent decision to downsize this force has led to a need for teams to assist in the transition period, and to consolidate the progress already made towards peace and stability in Bosnia.

“Our personnel will work alongside their British counterparts, undertaking a range of duties including surveillance, security assessment, observation duties, and liaison with government and non-governmental organisations.

“Our people already have a wide range of experience in such diverse situations as Solomon Islands, Bougainville, and Timor Leste, and an excellent reputation for working efficiently and cooperatively with their colleagues from around the world. I know that they will undertake this new deployment with the same high level of professionalism the NZDF is known for around the world.

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