11 May 2012
NZ Defence Force personnel deployed to the Sinai have this week marked 30 years of continuous commitment to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).
The MFO is a 12 nation independent organisation established to uphold the conditions set down in the Treaty of Peace signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979. On the 29 March 1979 President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel signed a historic agreement which set out limitations on the levels of both Egyptian and Israeli military forces in the Sinai.
The NZ Defence Force has made a crucial contribution to the MFO, and our people have participated with distinction since the MFO was established 30 years ago, says Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Dave Gawn.
"Along with the Defence Force’s support to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), our involvement in the MFO represents the most tangible demonstration of New Zealand’s support for the Middle East peace process."
As part of the MFO 30th anniversary celebrations, the Director General of the MFO, Ambassador David Satterfield, was welcomed onto camp by a powhiri performed by the New Zealand contingent. Senior representatives from Egypt and Israel unveiled a plaque to mark the anniversary.
The current Force Commander of the MFO, a Kiwi, Major General Warren Whiting, says while the anniversary is a significant milestone for the MFO and for the NZ Defence Force, it is business as usual in the Sinai.
"While we have celebrated the 30th anniversary, because we’re mission focused, it was a low key celebration. The MFO is about looking after the Treaty, not patting ourselves on the back."
The role of the MFO is even more important today given the current situation in Egypt which remains volatile. "With the current uncertainty in the Middle East, the role of the MFO is even more crucial to stability in the region. Since the revolution both sides are talking so much more, and the main conduit is through the MFO," adds MAJGEN Whiting.
The MFO assumed its mandate on 25 April 1982. The contributing nations that make up the MFO are diverse, and include Uruguay, Fiji, Hungary, and Norway.
Participation by New Zealand originally took the form of Rotary Wing Air Support in March 1982 and subsequently evolved to its present form.
The Defence Force’s current contribution consists of 28 personnel who provide expertise in operations, driving and training. The NZ Training and Advisory Team is one of the key roles the NZ Defence Force provides to the MFO, establishing, conducting, maintaining and evaluating training courses common to the MFO, as well as providing driver training and MFO driver permit qualifications testing to all of the contingents.
For further information please contact Kirsty Taylor-Doig, Defence Communications Group 021 806 926