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Australia Thanks NZ For East Timor Contribution

Saturday, 16th November 2002

Australia Thanks New Zealand For East Timor Contribution

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, the Honourable Danna Vale has today praised the efforts of New Zealand's contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations in East Timor.

Minister Vale was speaking at a Parade held in honour of the New Zealand Contingent at RAAF Base Darwin.

Also present at the parade was the New Zealand Minister for Defence the Honourable Mark Burton and the Chiefs of Defence Forces for Australia and New Zealand, General Peter Cosgrove and Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson respectively.

A highlight of the parade was the awarding of an Australian Meritorious Unit Citation to 3 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force for outstanding service during East Timor operations.

Minister Vale praised the New Zealand Contingent's outstanding contribution to the humanitarian crisis in East Timor and the subsequent sustained commitment to the peacekeeping operation.

Minister Vale said, "Over the past three years, the New Zealand Contingent has made a remarkable contribution to peacekeeping in East Timor and they have played a key role in securing a young country's future.

"New Zealand can and should be proud of the role it has played.

"The work performed by New Zealand, Australia and other coalition nations under the United Nations mandate in East Timor will not be forgotten by the UN and the international community or by the people of East Timor", Minister Vale said.

In presenting 3 Squadron RNZAF with the Meritorious Unit Citation, Minister Vale said the award was further recognition of the esteem with which Australia holds the professionalism and dedication of coalition partners, like New Zealand, in East Timor.

The United Nations East Timor operation has been New Zealand's largest overseas military deployment since the Korean War. In total, about 4,000 NZDF personnel have been deployed to East Timor.

The New Zealand Battalion has had under its command in East Timor a company group from Canada, and contingents from Ireland, Nepal, Fiji and Singapore.

The New Zealand units are to be replaced by a Thai Battalion and a Singaporean helicopter unit.

Up to 26 NZDF personnel will remain in East Timor, including staff officers, military observers and training personnel.

Further information: Minister Vale: Rachael Thompson 0417 265 289 Department: (Darwin) Steve Ridgway 0411 885 994 (Canberra) Emma Diffen 0414 345 741

File vision of East Timor operations has been released to the Federal Press Gallery.

The text of the Meritorious Unit Citation is as follows:

Be it known that with the authority of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, I have awarded the

MERITORIOUS UNIT CITATION

to

Number 3 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force

for sustained outstanding service in the support of peacekeeping operations while deployed in East Timor.

Citation

Number 3 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force, deployed to East Timor as part of the International Force in September 1999 and has provided continuous support to successive Australian and New Zealand Battalions. The support provided by the Squadron in Sector West has been characterised by exemplary flexibility, responsiveness and exceptional airmanship in a very challenging operational environment.

Given at Government House, Canberra, this fifteenth day of November 2002.

By His Excellency's Command

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