Saeima okays sending troops to missions in Iraq and Mali

Saeima has greenlighted the participation of Latvian National Armed Forces in international missions in Iraq and Mali, reported LSM's Latvian-language service Thursday.

Latvian soldiers will participate in the UN-led stabilization mission in Mali as well as a counter-terrorism operation in Iraq.

No MPs objected to the proposal, and 81 supported participation in the Mali mission, while 78 - the Iraq mission.

"This is the time when we can give our due for stabilizing the situation by the European border," Latvia's Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis said, nothing the recent terrorist attacks in Jakarta and Istanbul. 

One to three soldiers will participate in the Mali peacekeeping mission, where they'll join the Dutch information headquarters in Bamako. The mandate has been given until June 30, 2016. 

The counter-terrorism operation in Iraq will feature up to ten Latvian soldiers who will join the Danish contingent in training Iraqi forces. It is expected that they will stay there at least until February 2018.

The Ministry of Defense stresses that Latvian soldiers will not participate in combat operations.

At the moment, the National Armed Forces are participating in the EU's counter-terrorist operation Atalanta, the training of the Mali army, in the NATO operation in Afghanistan and in the EU effort against human trafficking and smuggling in the Mediterranean. 

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