Darabos and Spindelegger in favour of continuing the humanitarian mission in Chad
Vienna, 19 January 2008 - Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Defence Minister Norbert Darabos will be proposing a continuation of the humanitarian mission of the Austrian Federal Armed Forces in Chad until the end of 2009 to the Council of Ministers. Foreign Minister Spindelegger used today's session of the Council for Integration Issues and Foreign Policy to inform the parliament parties and the social partners about this plan. The main committee of the National Council will have to approve the mission by majority vote.
Defence Minister Darabos said: "Half a million refugees in the East of Chad still need protection and assistance. Without troops, the refugees and the suffering population would be unprotected and fully exposed to bandits and robber bands." Therefore, Darabos welcomed the decision of the UN Security Council to deploy blue helmets in the region. "Austria will not close its eyes to this humanitarian suffering. The Austrian Federal Armed Forces have done an excellent job so far, and will therefore continue their engagement toward stability and security in Chad until the end of the year."
"Following an in-depth review by the experts of the Foreign and Defence Ministries, Federal Minister Darabos and I decided that Austria will participate in this UN mission. By doing so, we will also be complying with an express wish by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon", said Foreign Minister Spindelegger. The Foreign Minister pointed out to a personal meeting he had the week before last in New York with the UN Secretary General, during which the latter reiterated the UN appeal to continue Austria's humanitarian mission in Chad under UN flag.
The current mandate for the EUFOR mission for the protection of refugees and aid organizations in the Eastern region bordering the Sudanese province of Darfur will expire on 15 March. Last week the UN Security Council unanimously adopted the deployment of a UN MINURCAT follow-up mission, which also contains a military component.
"As with the EU mission, we will be joining this mission with circumspection and a great sense of responsibility. The security of our fellow citizens working for peace in the region is our top priority ", both ministers agreed. They added that "The UN follow-up mission is important for the stabilization of the entire region. We are thus making a concrete contribution to giving the people a perspective for the future. At the same time, we are continuing our much heeded and appreciated tradition in supporting the peace work of the United Nations."
In essence, the mandate of the future UN mission involves the same tasks as the current EU mission: Protection of civilians, especially of refugees and internally displaced persons, improvement of the general security situation to facilitate humanitarian assistance, support of the basic conditions for a long-term civil reconstruction, and of measures required for the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons, such as the protection of UN personnel, facilities, and equipment.
Federal Ministry for European and international
Spokesperson of the Foreign Minister
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3265
Fax: ++43 (1) 535 50 91
Federal Ministry of Defence
Mr. Stefan Hirsch
Spokesperson of the Defence Minister
Tel: ++43 (1) 5200-20215