Unit History: MFO Sinai

MFO Sinai
›› Twelve nations (Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and Uruguay) contribute contingents to make up the MFOs Force. It is the largest element of the MFO and is a joint organization with army, air and naval components. As of 17 November 2009, the MFOs Force numbered 1662 personnel.
Contingents in the MFO rotate in and out of the Sinai using a system of progressive personnel changeover, with the exception of the United States Infantry Battalion which rotates as a unit. Length of tour of duty varies but most contingents spend from six to twelve months in the Sinai.
The UK Has never been a major contributor to MFO, Sometimes providing 1 Officer as an Observer or in an Administrative role and 1 Other Rank (Usually a Sergeant).  There have been no UK Personnel in the MFO since approx 1999
The Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) is an independent international organization, headquartered in Rome, with peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. The origins of the MFO lie in Annex I to the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, in which the parties undertook to request the United Nations to provide a force and observers to supervise the implementation of the treaty. When it did not prove possible to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the parties negotiated a Protocol in 1981 establishing the MFO “as an alternative” to the envisioned UN force.
The Protocol defines the MFO’s mission, provides for the appointment of a Director General to be responsible for the direction of the MFO, and stipulates that the expenses of the MFO “which are not covered by other sources shall be borne equally by the Parties.” The United States, which was instrumental in assisting the parties in setting up the MFO, has formally pledged to provide one-third of the annual operating expenses of the organization, subject to Congressional authorization and appropriations.
The area subject to Annex I is divided into four zones, Zones A, B, and C in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Zone D in Israel. Zones C and D are adjacent to the international border. This Annex also establishes the post-withdrawal levels of military personnel and equipment allowed in each Zone and, in Article VI, states that both Parties would request the United Nations to provide a force and observers to supervise the implementation of these provisions.
Egypt, Representatives of Egypt, Israel and the United States sign the Protocol creating the MFODuring the period leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Peace, it was understood by all concerned that it might prove difficult to obtain Security Council approval for the stationing of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Sinai. Therefore, on March 26, 1979, the day that the Treaty of Peace was signed, President Carter sent identical letters to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin that specified certain U.S. commitments with respect to the Treaty of Peace. These commitments included a promise by President Carter that the U.S. would take the necessary steps to ensure the establishment and maintenance of an alternative multinational force should the United Nations fail to assume this role.
In July 1979, the mandate of United Nations Emergency Force II (UNEF II) expired. The United Nations did not formally consider a new mandate for Sinai peacekeeping. As the Treaty of Peace provided for a role for United Nations forces in the process of the phased withdrawal, an immediate substitute was needed.
The United States Government agreed that the existing U.S. Sinai Field Mission (SFM) would take on a new mission, carrying out certain of the verification functions specified in the Treaty of Peace.
Efforts were made during the following two years to secure the United Nations Force and Observers contemplated by the Treaty of Peace. On May 18, 1981, however, the President of the Security Council announced that it would not be possible for the United Nations to provide such a peacekeeping force.
Egypt and Israel, with the assistance of the United States, then opened negotiations with the hope of reaching an agreement that would serve as a basis for creating a peacekeeping organization outside the United Nations framework.
Several features distinguished the Treaty and peacekeeping environment from that of traditional peacekeeping missions. The new organization would operate in these two nations, bound by a definitive Treaty of Peace, each exercising sovereignty over its respective territories. Thus, the peacekeeping force would not act as a buffer between combatants nor as an instrument of merely interim or truce arrangements, but rather would work closely with two nations to support a permanent peace that they had already struggled together to forge and maintain.
The Treaty of Peace provided quite specific but nonetheless complex limitations on the levels of both Egyptian and Israeli military forces in the four Zones. The mission of the peacekeeping force would be to observe and verify compliance with, and to report any violations of, the limitations on military personnel and equipment that are set out in the Treaty of Peace, and to ensure freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. Moreover, the peacekeepers would be charged with using their best efforts to prevent treaty violation, to prevent difficulties and to resolve problems. This specified and limited mission would provide a certain degree of clarity in the expectations of the Parties with respect to the role of the organization.
The task of translating the terms of the Treaty of Peace into a working reality, however, was arduous and time consuming. The parties to the negotiations were responsible for laying the foundations for an organizational and administrative structure unlike any of its predecessors in international peacekeeping. The lack of an existing organizational and administrative structure created obvious initial difficulties, but held the promise of innovation in an environment relatively free of the accumulated bureaucratic weight and political complexity of an existing organization.
The new independent, international organization would be funded, in equal parts, by its two Receiving States (Egypt and Israel) and the United States (the Funds Contributing States). This arrangement assured that each of the governments would take an active interest in the operations of the organization. Egyptian and Israeli financial participation could be expected to produce a healthy sense of identification with the organization, while obligating the negotiators to devise methods of ensuring objectivity and independence.
These negotiations between the Treaty Parties, carried out against the backdrop of the phased Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, culminated on August 3, 1981 with the signing of the Protocol to the Treaty of Peace, establishing the Multinational Force and Observers.

Added on 21/07/2010

The MFO was formed under a Norwegian General who insisted on a British presence in the HQ. The 24 strong American observer element who always dressed, strangley, in orage coveralls were reputed to be CIA personnel.
There were battalions from Columbia, Fiji and US marines with a seaborne element from Italy.
Provided by:
Peter Oakley
Observer 1986 &  1988

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