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Mongolian president visits peacekeeping forces in South Sudan

February 17, 2013 (BENTIU) - The Mongolian president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, visited his country’s troops who are serving as United Nations peacekeepers in South Sudan’s Unity state on Friday.

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Mongolian president Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj (centre) arrives in Unity state, 17 February 2013 (ST)

The Mongolian president was welcomed by South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit and the UN special representative, Hilde Johnson, upon his arrival at Juba International Airport on Friday afternoon before heading to Unity state to see the Mongolian element of the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Elbegdorj’s visit is also aimed at strengthening Mongolia’s diplomatic relations with South Sudan, which became independent in 2011.

Addressing Mongolian troops and UN workers in Bentiu, Elbegdorj urged his soldiers to promote peace and contribute to the development of South Sudan, which is one the world’s poorest, as well as being the world’s youngest nation.

Through an interpreter Elbegdorj told his troops to continue “contributing to world peace” by fulfilling the tasks “given by the UNMISS and supporting the government of South Sudan”.

“You must perform your duties very well to make your contribution for the peace-building process for South Sudan”, said Elbegdorj.

The president said the Mongolian army had contributed to UN peacekeeping forces for more than 10 years, sending a total of 10,000 troops.

Hiruy Amanuel, the chief political affairs representative at UNMISS, said that Elbegdorj’s visit was the first to South Sudan by a head of state from outside Africa. His visit is also the first from a country contributing troops to the UN mission, adding that the mission is deeply honoured by his visit.

“When the national of one country works in another country in a peacekeeping operation it is natural to expect beneficial effects for the relations between two countries, UNMISS very much hopes that the experiences of Mongolians in South Sudan and your visit in particular will generate curiosity and interest in both countries and serve as a catalyst for the launching of development of relations between [the] two countries, between states and regions, between cities, between schools and medical institutions”, Amanuel said, adding that in this way the Mongolian contingent in South Sudan “will be more than a contribution to a UN operation” alone.

UN peacekeeping forces arrived in Sudan in 2005 after a peace deal reached between the former rebels - the SPLA - and Sudanese government in Naivasha, Kenya.

After six years of peace where the two sides shared power, South Sudan voted to become independent in July 2011 and a new mandate was signed between the UN and the South Sudanese government to continue its protection of civilians.

(ST)