Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Peacekeeping deployment to Sinai renewed after terrorist concerns

Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee. Photo/ Jason Oxenham.
Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee. Photo/ Jason Oxenham.

The Government has extended the deployment of peacekeeping troops in the Sinai by a further two years just months after the troops were moved and the deployment put under frequent review because of terrorist risks.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the extension of the deployment of up to 28 troops to Sinai until 2018 as well as an extra 35 personnel for the first six months of 2017 to build a security fence around the troops' camp.

In May and June, the peacekeepers were moved from their usual base in the north to the south camp of the peninsula because of terrorist activity by groups such as Wilayat Sinai, aligned to Islamic State.

The deployment was also put under four monthly review rather than the usual two-yearly review as other countries including the US and Fiji also closed some outposts and moved troops south.

Brownlee said the decision to commit to a full two-year deployment was made because many of the security concerns had been addressed.

"Cabinet will review the deployment in 2018 but in the meantime it will continue to be closely monitored."

He said the extra personnel to build the fence would help bolster the security of the camp the troops were based in and was a request from the Multinational Force and Observers. It was expected to cost $1.5 million.

However, the increase in terrorist activity as Islamic State grew caused concerns the peacekeepers would be targeted in retaliation for attempts to push Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria.

Peacekeepers are only allowed to fire in self-defence.

New Zealand has taken part in the mission since it was established in 1982 to monitor the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. New Zealand's contribution includes trainers, a transport section and headquarters staff.

- NZ Herald

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