Minister visits Sinai and Golan Heights

  • Gerry Brownlee

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee will today arrive in Stuttgart, Germany, following his first visit to NZ Defence Force (NZDF) troops at South Camp in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Israel, and the Golan Heights.

“Visiting the Sinai provided a great opportunity to talk with Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) leadership and our 27 strong Kiwi contingent who form part of the deployment that for the past 34 years has maintained peace between Israel and Egypt on the Sinai Peninsula," Mr Brownlee says.

“The deployment to the MFO is one of New Zealand’s longest running peacekeeping deployments, with a continuous NZDF presence since the mission began in 1982.

“As in other deployments, NZDF personnel are doing an excellent job, in this case as drivers, trainers and key operational planning personnel contributing a huge amount to the MFO.

“The deployment is also highly appreciated by the Egyptian and Israeli governments, a point reinforced by Egyptian Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi, when I met with him on Friday, and Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who I met in Tel Aviv on Sunday."

While in Israel Mr Brownlee also met with Major General David Gawn, Head of Mission and Chief of Staff to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO).

“As a former New Zealand Chief of Army, Major General Gawn is extremely experienced and the visit was a timely opportunity for full briefings on the security situation in the region,” Mr Brownlee says.

UNTSO was the first peacekeeping operation established by the United Nations, with the first military observers arriving in the Middle East in June 1948.  UNTSO’s activities are spread over five host countries – Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syrian Arab Republic.

“There are currently eight NZDF personnel serving as part of the UNTSO based in the Golan Heights,  Jerusalem and Southern Lebanon,” Mr Brownlee says.

“New Zealand is committed to international peacekeeping and peace monitoring efforts, and Kiwis can be very proud of the work NZDF troops are undertaking to promote peace and stability in the Middle East.”

Mr Brownlee is in Stuttgart to participate in a Counter-ISIL Defence Ministers' meeting prior to returning home.