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Peacekeeping Swiss boost UN observer mission in Western Sahara

Swiss military observers have been participating in UN missions for nearly 25 years

(VBS)

Switzerland will send up to six unarmed military observers to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara to reinforce its involvement in the region.

The defence ministry said the government on Wednesday decided to approve a request by the UN to contribute to an extended contingent of military personnel.

The unarmed experts are supervising the 1988 ceasefire agreement between Morocco and the Polisario Front group fighting for independence of Western Sahara.

Two Swiss mine clearing specialists have been working with the UN contingent since 2011. Up to 85 members of the Swiss Medical Unit also served in the region between 1991 to 1994, according to the ministry.

Efforts to organise a referendum on Western Sahara have stalled over disagreement on voter rights.

Switzerland has been taking part in military UN observers missions since 1990. Currently there are 26 military experts and staff officers stationed in the Middle East, Africa and south-east Asia.

Since 1999 it has also been involved in an international peace support mission in Kosovo. The 220 members of the Swiss army are volunteers and armed for self-defence. The mandate for the Swisscoy troops runs until 2017.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch


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