Vienna, 14 November 2006 - "Our willingness to assume responsibility at the international level and Austria’s considerable contribution to peace missions are internationally acknowledged and appreciated. Numerous Austrians are serving in the interests of peace in the Balkans, in the Middle East, but also in smaller missions in Sudan, Cyprus, Georgia and Afghanistan. Today we have therefore decided to extend these important UN and EU missions by a further year," said Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik following the decision by the Council of Ministers on Austria’s participation in European and international peace missions.
"There is a political consensus within Austria on this issue. Austria has always shown solidarity and participated as far as possible in joint international peace work. This is part of our self-conception," continued Plassnik.
The largest contingent of Austrians is in service in the Balkans. "With our commitment in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo we help to consolidate stability and peace in the Balkans" and increase Austria’s security in this way. The international presence is particularly important in the decisive stage of the final determination of Kosovo’s future status. Austria will therefore remain committed with up to 600 Austrian soldiers in Kosovo," said the Foreign Minister. It will also continue to participate in military and civilian peace missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina: "As part of the EU police mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria is participating in the setting up of a modern, multi-ethnic police force. It is a special sign of respect for our country that an Austrian commanded the contingent last year. This mission and the deployment of up to 300 Austrian soldiers, which was extended today, make an invaluable contribution to the preservation of peace and the rebuilding of a functioning society," said the Foreign Minister.
Austrians are also active in the Middle East in the interests of peace. "Austria has had a commitment in the region for decades. The support of the international community in safeguarding security and the rule of law is indispensable if the Middle East is to have real prospects for peace. The Federal Government therefore approved both the extension of the mission of up to 387 peacekeepers on the Golan Heights and Austria’s continued participation in safeguarding the border at Rafah and training Palestinian police officers and legal experts," said Plassnik.
In this connection Plassnik emphasised her enduring commitment to strengthening the active role of women in crisis management. "It is not just a question of supporting the role of women in shaping society but also of increasing their participation in peace missions," emphasised Plassnik. The Foreign Minister referred to yesterday’s adoption of the conclusions on the promotion of women in EU peace operations: "This underscores our political will to give women a greater say in all EU peace missions and to take full account of women’s concerns in their planning and organisation. Contacts with local women’s organisations will also be part of these missions in the future," continued the Foreign Minister.
Specific requirements for future missions were already elaborated during Austria’s EU Presidency. "Only if the concerns of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security have been firmly anchored in specific organisation plans can we be sure that they will be taken into account in missions. We also have to put these requirements into practice at the national level and include women in EU operations to an increasing extent. An action plan is currently being elaborated under the auspices of my Ministry," concluded Plassnik.
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