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MFO chief praises NZ contribution in Sinai


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence
24 February 2006
Media statement

Statement issued on behalf of James Larocco,
Director General of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers

MFO chief praises New Zealand contribution in Sinai

New Zealand's longstanding participation in the Sinai Multinational Force and Observers mission was praised by MFO Director General James Larocco during a meeting with Defence Minister Phil Goff yesterday afternoon.

"New Zealand is making a vital contribution in the Sinai. Its contingent is playing a key role in the command of the MFO, and has contributed enormously to the mission's morale and performance," Mr Larocco said.

"At the same time, the New Zealanders I have worked with have been outstanding ambassadors for their country, their people and their culture."

New Zealand Defence Force personnel have served in the MFO since 1982. There are currently 26 NZDF personnel deployed in the Sinai, and this week the government extended the current contribution for two years, until April 2008.

"During my meeting with Phil Goff, I noted that with the current Middle East situation, the role of the MFO is of heightened importance to the stability of the region. In that capacity New Zealand's contribution has taken on a heightened importance of its own," Mr Larocco said.

"The MFO mission has transformed over the years. In addition to its longstanding role of maintaining peace and stability in a tense border region, it now also has an important part to play in actively contributing to building confidence and trust between Egypt and Israel in support of Middle East peace.

"New Zealand's contingent is operating in a very difficult environment. In the last two years we have experienced multiple terrorist attacks within the Sinai for the first time. At the same time the MFO has been taking on addition responsibilities in monitoring the area along the border with Gaza.

"I know both Egypt and Israel value New Zealand's contribution and are keen to see it continue to play a role in the region," Mr Larocco said.

During his six-day visit to New Zealand, Mr Larocco also met with Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Minister Winston Peters, and briefed senior figures from the Defence Forces, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

ENDS

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