"Portugal's generous contribution of special forces troops has strengthened the UN peacekeeping capacity to protect the most vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic," said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, adding that the Portuguese "have demonstrated strong military competence, serving the local population with warmth and compassion, evidenced by the work done with schools and local communities."

The Portuguese troops, he stressed, "have demonstrated a high level of professionalism and dedication" and UN officials are "deeply grateful for their continued service".

Portugal currently contributes 201 agents in four UN peacekeeping missions, being the country that has most agents in the Multidimensional Integrated Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca), where 188 women and men are deployed, and also has staff in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss), the Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali (Minusma) and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, according to the statement sent to Lusa.

"Portugal is also part of the UN Secretary General's initiative "Action for Peacekeeping (A4P)", which calls on Member States, the Security Council, host countries, countries contributing military and police personnel, regional partners and financial donors to renew the collective commitment to UN peacekeeping and the mutual commitment to promote service excellence," the statement also noted.

Since 1948, more than a million women and men have served as UN peacekeepers, according to the United Nations, with more than 3,500 deaths.