In the past year the planned rotation of troops to and from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission has been delayed on two occasions. I regret the impact that these delays had for the Defence Forces personnel and their families.
The rotation of Defence Force personnel serving in UNDOF and the United nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) missions happens twice yearly, in April/May and October/November. In accordance with agreed arrangements, the United Nations is responsible for making transport arrangements for the rotation of troops in April/May, while the Department is responsible for the October/November rotations. This involves the dedicated charter of a civilian aircraft for each movement of troops, which is arranged by the Department by way of a tender competition in line with public procurement regulations. When smaller numbers of personnel are travelling to and from missions, transport is generally by way of scheduled commercial flights.
The UNDOF contingent is operating in a very challenging region where there can never be complete certainty on transit routes and where the administrative procedures relating to the transit of military personnel are complex and cut across a number of jurisdictions. Approvals for the transit of foreign military forces, in a congested conflict zone, involve many governmental layers, and are, therefore, not without hazard. While every effort is made to secure the necessary clearances on time, we do not have control over these and rely on the good offices of the States through which we are transiting. We will continue to engage with these States. However, given all the variables, it is not possible to guarantee rotation dates at this time with the requisite certainty, and personnel will be advised of this uncertainty when deploying in future.