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NZ Commitment to East Timor

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Goff and the Minister of Defence, Mark Burton have announced that New Zealand will continue to provide humanitarian peacekeeping support in East Timor when the United Nations transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET) formally takes over peacekeeping responsibilities in February.

The Ministers said that Cabinet had agreed to provide up to 660 personnel comprising:

 A battalion of two infantry companies supported by an Irish contingent and a company of Fijian soldiers,
 Four Iroquois helicopters and a support crew,
 A company providing field support,
 Twenty five armoured personnel carriers,
 Plus up to 10 UN Military Observers.

The current NZ contingent in East Timor will be rotated in July of next year and the second battalion group will continue to operate in the area until March 2001.

Cabinet has also approved the deployment of the Royal New Zealand navy tanker HMNZS ENDEAVOUR to return to East Timor for a further two month period from mid-January next year in support of Timor operations.

"There is currently some 800 New Zealanders on the ground in East Timor. The planned reduction in the scale of New Zealand’s presence reflects the improved security situation on the ground and the UN’s desire to expand the range of countries contributing to UNTAET," the Ministers said.

"The SAS team returned to NZ last week along with our C130 Hercules and the HMNZS CANTERBURY will sail into Auckland tomorrow (23 December). The C130 Hercules will be redeployed to East Timor for a six week period from mid-January."

The Ministers said that New Zealand’s defence force had made a valuable contribution to the restoration of peace and safety in East Timor.

"They have operated in difficult and hazardous conditions on the western border and supported the repatriation of refugees returning home to East Timor.

"New Zealand service men and women have made a highly visible impact in the western Suai region, establishing an excellent rapport with local East Timorese people.

"In light of this, the UN has requested that our New Zealand soldiers remain in this border area to consolidate the gains already made and to assist local villagers to re-establish their communities."

Mr Goff said he would be visiting East Timor in mid-January as the Government's representative to observe first hand the work of the New Zealand forces in helping rebuild East Timor.

ends


Contact: Chris Roberts (Press Secretary to Mark Burton) 04 471-9773

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