Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday praised the work that military personnel are doing overseas in the service of Spain, whose security they are defending "increasingly farther away from Europe."

"Your discipline and dedication to service show the world the character of the Spanish people," the prime minister said in a Christmas message delivered via videoconference to military personnel serving abroad.

A total of 1,514 military personnel are spending Christmas outside Spain, serving in units deployed in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Somalia, Joint Chiefs of Staff figures show.

"Men and women are making sacrifices daily far from their families" for "the valuable but intangible good" that is "our security," Rajoy said, adding that armed forces members were "ambassadors for Spain" in "the most difficult places in the world."

"Our security is being defended increasingly farther away from Europe, in the festering conflicts in Afghanistan and Lebanon, in the failed states of the Horn of Africa," where I visited last weekend, "and in Mali, on the frontline border of the Sahel" and a region that has become "a new scenario of confrontation," the prime minister said.

Rajoy delivered his Christmas message at the Naval Academy in Marin, Pontevedra, the province in the northwestern region of Galicia where he will be spending Christmas Eve.

The Spanish armed forces began participating in international missions in 1989 and more than 100,000 military personnel have been deployed overseas since then, taking part in about 50 operations on four continents. EFE