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NZ extends commitment to Sinai observer force

NZ extends commitment to Sinai observer force

New Zealand's contribution of 26 Defence Force personnel to the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) has been extended for two years until 1 April 2008, Defence Minister Phil Goff announced today.

Mr Goff's announcement comes a day before he meets with the Director General of the MFO, James Larocco, who is visiting New Zealand.

"The MFO plays an important part in enhancing security in the Middle East. It also underpins the important relationship between Egypt and Israel by maintaining two decades of peace on a border that was once regularly fought over," Mr Goff said.

"New Zealand has participated in the MFO since 1982. Both Egypt and Israel value our participation and want it to continue.

"Supporting the MFO has a number of benefits for New Zealand. It demonstrates our commitment to collective global security; contributes to confidence building in the Middle East; illustrates New Zealand’s commitment to the Middle East peace process; underlines our reputation in the region as being even-handed, and provides valuable operational experience for Defence Force personnel."

Mr Goff said that since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, the MFO had played a leading role in creating conditions under which border guards could be deployed and border crossings opened.

"New Zealand's key contribution to the MFO is the Training and Advisory Team (TAT), which prepares contingents for duties in the Sinai, including monitoring their performance and advising on ways in which it may be improved. The team trains and tests over 1800 personnel per year.

"We also contribute truck drivers, an engineer, and staff officers to the Force Headquarters at El Gorah, and hold several high profile staff appointments," Mr Goff said.

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