A member of the Azerbaijani peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has been awarded a United Nations (UN) medal.
According to the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the UN, the authorities of the organization presented the medal to Major Ilkin Khalilov.
“Congratulations to Azerbaijani peacekeeper Major Ilkin Khalilov - awardee of the United Nations Medal in recognition of the duties and the service of peace as a Military Member of the UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan],” the Mission wrote on Twitter.
Two Azerbaijani peacekeepers have been serving in South Sudan’s capital Juba since January 2019 on a rotating basis, spearheading Azerbaijan’s commitment to the peacekeeping mission largely through observation tasks.
The decision of the deployment of the Azerbaijani peacekeepers to the country in northeastern Africa was adopted by Azerbaijan’s parliament on November 30, 2018. The Azerbaijani officers have been incorporated into the observation mission under the command of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The UN is currently safeguarding the peace in South Sudan with almost 20,000 personnel, including troops, experts, police, civilians, staff officers, and UN volunteers from 73 countries. The UNMISS was established on July 9, 2011, when South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan, to help protect security, create conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, support the implementation of the revitalized agreement and the peace process, as well as monitor and investigate human rights.
The situation in South Sudan deteriorated in 2013 following a six-year civil war between government and opposition forces that lasted until 2020 and claimed more than 400,000 lives and displaced 4 million, according to stats released by the Council on Foreign Relations. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights claims that during the intertribal conflict, armed groups targeted civilians along ethnic lines, committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed property and looted villages, and recruited children into their ranks. In 2018, the government and opposition forces signed the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement, which formally put an end to the conflict, however tribal clashes still continue.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is the first country in the Caspian region to commit troops to UNMISS. A helicopter group from Russia served in Juba from July 2011 to February 2012 as part of the UN’s efforts to launch a mission in South Sudan.
More than 3,000 Azerbaijani servicemen have supported various peace-building missions worldwide over the last two decades, including efforts in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which has been the focus of Azerbaijan’s longest-running international security mission.
In January 2018, the overall number of Azerbaijani peacekeepers deployed in Afghanistan reached 120 as forces positioned in the vicinity of Kabul International Airport continue efforts to ensure the airfield's security. During a NATO-led massive evacuation of people, mainly Afghans, who refused to stay following the Taliban’s rise to power in August 2021, the 120-man peacekeeping unit of the Azerbaijan Army, together with the Turkish troops, carried out its duties to ensure the security of the Kabul airport and those leaving the country. On August 26, 2021, a few days before the last soldiers of the allied forces left the country, the Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan withdrew the peacekeeping contingent from Afghanistan.
For nearly two decades, Azerbaijan was the only non-NATO Muslim-majority country to partner with NATO in Afghanistan.