Defense minister, army chief inspect EU’s Central African Republic mission

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Minister of Defense Raimonds Vejonis and Chief of the National Armed Forces (NBS) Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube landed in the Central African Republic (CAR) on a working visit Tuesday to inspect the EU military operation there, reported military news portal Wednesday.

During their visit, the minister and chief of defense are scheduled to meet with Major General Philippe Ponties, Commander of the EU military operation in the CAR, to follow-up on the operation's objectives and progress, including the Latvian troops' contribution, its largest yet to an EU mission.

The Latvian officials are also scheduled to meet with commanders of the French military operation in the CAR Sangris and the UN-led operation MINUSCA.

Vejonis and Lieutenant General Graube are also scheduled to see top CAR state officials, including the president and defense minister, as well as the chief of defense, to learn more about the security situation in this African country and the state of its defense and security system, in light of instability in the region.

Consultations are planned regarding the possible further involvement of the NBS in this operation. For Latvian troops, the operation in CAR is their first peacekeeping operation on unit-platoon level in the African continent. The experience gained on this operation will serve as a basis for decisions on Latvia's future participation in EU and UN-led peacekeeping operations.

"Latvia is being directly affected by geopolitical instability in Europe, but we must be able to see and assess broader challenges already today -- the wars and insurgencies in Africa are posing a direct threat to Europe's security. Already in the nearest future, Latvia must consider its armed forces' involvement in UN-led peacekeeping operations, because if we expect the rest of the world to support our sovereignty and independence, we must be able to provide our contribution as well," said Minister of Defense Raimonds Vejonis.

Vejonis and Lieutenant General Graube will also meet with the Latvian soldiers deployed to the CAR for participation in the EU operation. There are currently 40 Latvian troops participating in the EU military operation in the CAR. The Latvian forces are stationed in the CAR capital city Bangui.

The Latvian soldiers deployed for the CAR in June. Their military gear, including five armored vehicles, was delivered by the world’s largest airplane – An-225 Mriya.

In the CAR, the main responsibilities of the Latvian soldiers include maintaining security at the Bangui airport, patrolling and convoying humanitarian aid cargos from the airport to the city.

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