RIGA - The Defense Ministry plans to send Latvian soldiers to participate in the UN peacekeeping force, but it is currently unknown in which region of the world Latvia's presence would be necessary, Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks (For Development) told reporters today.
The minister explained that so far Latvia has not had experience in participating in the UN peacekeeping force, therefore this experience must be developed. First, to strengthen international organizations and Latvia's presence in these organizations. "As we know, Latvia is a candidate country for the status of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Such activities help and in this way we would also help the priorities of the Foreign Service," the minister pointed out.
Secondly, participation in this type of force would also give the Latvian army additional experience, he said.
The minister did not mention specific countries and regions, and it is not yet known whether Latvia would participate in such a mission alone or together with a partner country. However, the minister mentioned Finland, which is close to Latvia, as an active country within the UN peacekeeping mission.
Pabriks emphasized that there are now growing challenges in gathering member states for UN peacekeeping missions, so it is politically the right time to apply for such missions.
However, the minister pointed out that Latvia's participation in a specific UN peacekeeping mission will not take place in the next six months or a year, as appropriate preparations are required.
"There is nothing concrete at the moment, but we have given the task to begin preparations. In the near future, we will send a high-ranking officer to New York, who will work with the UN in this direction," Pabriks added.
The minister also emphasized that Latvia will maintain its participation in existing international missions and operations in the near future. He emphasized that without participation in international operations and missions, enhanced security for Latvia cannot be imagined or the professional development of soldiers.
As reported, Latvia is planning to join Kosovo Force (KFOR) again after withdrawing from KFOR eleven years ago, according to a draft Saeima decision prepared by the Defense Ministry.
Latvia participated in the KFOR mission from February 2000 to August 2009 with different contingents. The Defense Ministry proposes that Latvia join the U.S.-led multinational battalion by sending a light infantry company to Kosovo.
The Latvian contingent would be up to 160 strong, and its main tasks would be patrolling, maintaining combat capability and performing the tasks of a rapid reaction force. Latvia's membership in KFOR would enable the National Armed Forces to continue tactical cooperation and compatibility with the armed forces of NATO and partner countries, the Defense Ministry explains.
Latvia currently participates in five international operations and missions. The largest Latvian contingent, 43 troops, serves in Afghanistan.