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Rajoy's message to Spanish troops stationed overseas
PRESIDENT Mariano Rajoy and defence minister María Dolores de Cospedal have given the usual Christmas greeting via videoconference to the nation's troops abroad who will not be at home to celebrate the festivities.
“Once again, our sincere and profound thanks for what you do – protecting Spain and its people,” said Rajoy, who called them 'the best version of Spain'.
The PP leader says the history of the country's foreign missions is 'like Spain, a success story'.
He and Sra de Cospedal were greeted by the soldiers, who were praised for having 'kept areas free from the atrocities of terrorism and human trafficking' and for 'building bridges with other cultures which want to confront us'.
Accompanied by the Head of State for Defence, General Fernando Alejandre, Rajoy spoke and exchanged messages with soldiers stationed in Lebanon, Baghdad (Iraq), Kabul (Afghanistan), Mali, Turkey, Dakar (Sénégal), Djibouti, Sicily (Italy), Latvia, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, the Central African Republic, the Gabriel de Castilla base in the Antarctic, the Hespérides research ship, and on Naval vessels in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean.
Rajoy recalled that 'defending Spain' was 'the first obligation of the State', and that the Armed Forces 'contribute, through their commitment, to Spain's prestige and to the stability of the countries where they operate'.
In the last five years, the 'largest-ever logistical distribution of units in Afghanistan' has been completed and Spain has become the main contributor to missions in Africa, has kept Naval ships out in five key areas worldwide, and for the first time has sent out armour-plated vehicles to Latvia 'in solidarity with our Baltic allies'.
“From Afghanistan to Colombia, from Latvia to the Antarctic, the soldiers they teach, the migrants they have rescued and, in general, the societies they live with have all gained a good impression of Spain's military – an impression of courtesy, proper treatment, loyalty, honour, consistency, patience and humility; virtues I have seen for myself on my visits to bases and in the soldiers returning from their missions,” Rajoy continued.
“They have made Spain's flag their currency and protect us far beyond Spain's borders.”
The president told the Forces' family members to be 'very proud' of their relatives' work, which is 'very important for everyone', and stressed that their missions 'are not over' until they are 'back in Spain at home with their families, safe and sound'.
A message was given to Rajoy, Cospedal and Alejandre by the chief of the unit stationed in Mali, stressing its commitment to continue working on the mission and to 'increase the prestige of our Armed Forces', whilst all the others around the world expressed their pride in being soldiers defending Spain's interests.
Spanish Armed Forces are involved in 20 foreign missions, with soldiers and Guardia Civil officers based on four continents – the highest numbers being in Lebanon, with 618 on duty, and Iraq, with 531.
They also patrol the Mediterranean and take part in defending the Baltic States and Turkey for NATO.
Spain is present in the majority of the European Union's missions on the African continent, with bases in Mali, Somalia, Sénégal, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Gabon, as well as working on operations aimed at preventing human trafficking off the coasts of Libya and combating pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Spanish soldiers are, additionally, participating in training security forces in various African countries.
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