Latvian soldiers deploy to EU operations in Africa

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The Ministry of Defense held an official send-off ceremony for Latvian troops going to two EU-led operations in Africa Wednesday, reported defense news portal Some of the soldiers are being deployed to anti-piracy operation Atalanta off the Somalian coast, while others are on their way to the EU’s training mission in Mali this week.

Speaking at the ceremony were Minister of Defence Raimonds Vējonis and the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube, as well as commanders of the units of regular forces.

“Soon you will be on your way to the costs of Somalia and Mali to carry out your service in international operations for the next months, thus proving the determination of the Republic of Latvia to provide for peace and security not only in it’s own territory but also around the world,” Vējonis told the soldiers.

“Nowadays countries are more interconnected than ever before, events are not isolated conflicts – now they are a part of a complex security environment, and the stability in the countries of Africa could be an important factor that could affect peace and stability in Europe,” said the Minister, ahead of his informal meeting with EU defence ministers in Riga this week, where the topic of possible future operations in Africa will be touched upon.

“We cannot allow the terror and violence to destroy countries and people’s destinies because we, Europeans and Baltic people, have experienced the evil that can arise from lack of control over aggressors. Thus, we are taking part in the battle against piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, and will provide training for the Army of Mali to stop the spread of violence that has erupted in these regions,” stressed the Minister.

The soldiers will depart for the respective operations in the coming days. They will take with them the Latvian flag, given by the Minister of Defence, and a gift from the Chief of Defence – a loaf of beloved rye bread.

Seven soldiers from Latvian contingent in Mali have been included in a Finnish-led Nordic-Baltic company level Training Team, which also includes military instructors from Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania.

The Saeima decision to take part in the counter-piracy Operation Atalanta was passed on September 2, 2010. Two Latvian soldiers take part in the operation.

The EU launched Operation Atalanta, its first-ever naval operation, in December 2008 to help deter, prevent and repress acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.

The Council of the European Union has extended the EU’s counter-piracy Operation Atalanta by two more years, until 12 December 2016. The Operation’s main focus is the protection of World Food Programme vessels delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia; as well as the deterrence, repression and disruption of piracy off the Somali coast. In addition, Operation Atalanta contributes to the monitoring of fishing activities in those waters.

On March 7, 2013, the Latvian parliament ruled to contribute Latvian troops to the training mission in Mali. Initially, Latvia sent two soldiers, but as of early 2014, there are already seven Latvian soldiers serving there.

The EU Training Mission Mali, launched on February 18, 2013, is charged with enhancing the military capabilities of the Malian armed forces, enabling them to restore the West African state's territorial integrity under the supervision of civilian authorities. The training mission's personnel provides military training and consultations to the military of Mali, covering such topics as command and control, logistics and human resources, as well as international humanitarian law, civil defence and human rights.

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