PM BAINIMARAMA – STATEMENT TO THE NATION ON FIJIAN PEACEKEEPERS

My Fellow Fijians,

The Fijian Government is continuing to work closely with the United Nations to secure the safe return of the 44 Fijian peacekeepers currently being detained in Syria.

These men are peacekeepers and there is no reason for their continued detention. We are doing everything in our power to argue this case and secure their release.

The latest information we have from multiple sources is that they are safe and are being held in an undisclosed location. We have opened channels of communication with Al Nusra Front – the armed group responsible for their capture – and negotiations are proceeding. Yesterday, the group released a photograph of our men who appeared to be in good health.

The international support for our cause has been overwhelming. Over the weekend, I have been in constant contact with UN officials, foreign leaders and diplomats, who all share our absolute commitment to resolving this situation and bringing our soldiers home safely. I can assure you that the full weight of the international community is behind us – and for this we are grateful.

Yesterday, I spoke with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who reassured me that the UN was bringing all of its available resources to the negotiating table. He also took the opportunity to praise the work our soldiers are doing in the Golan Heights and on other UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

These men are professional soldiers who have been trained how to handle themselves in extreme situations like this. As a nation, we must have confidence in their training and in the capability of all those involved in negotiating their release.

The RFMF has set up a crisis centre in Vatawaqa that is providing support to the families of soldiers deployed overseas and especially those in Syria. The Government fully supports this outreach and stands ready to assist in any way we can.

I have received messages from Fijians of all faiths expressing their deep concern and saying that these men are in their prayers. Even in the midst of an election campaign, we are united as a nation in praying for their safe return.

When we receive new information, we will share it with you. Until then, please keep these men in your thoughts and prayers.

God bless these soldiers and God bless Fiji.