The European Union (EU) has committed resources in the form of a thousand strong force to be deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The operation, named EUFOR RCA, will provide temporary support in achieving a safe and secure environment in the Bangui area, Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in Brussels.
EUFOR RCA will be commanded by Major General Phillippe Ponties of France and will operate in Bangui and from Bangui Airport.
She added EUFOR RCA would hand over to a UN peacekeeping operation or to African partners but did not specify any timeline.
The UN is in the process of putting together a 12 000 strong peacekeeping force for the CAR. It is expected to take at least six months to put the force together. Currently there are 6 000 AU troops and 2 000 French soldiers on the ground in CAR and the EU force which Ashton said, will deploy rapidly, will assist them in peacekeeping efforts.
Operational headquarters for EUFOR RCA will be in Larissa, Greece, with force headquarters in Bangui.
Ashton said common costs of the operations are estimated at just on 26 million euros for the preparatory phase and a mandate of up to six months starting from full operational capability.
She saw the EU deployment as assisting in addressing the “huge challenges” facing the CAR which was thrown into crisis a year ago when the government was overthrown by the largely Muslim Seleka rebel group.
The UN High commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said 637 000 people have been displaced inside CAR, including more than 200 000 in the capital Bangui while 82 000 mostly Muslim residents have fled to neighbouring countries since the beginning of the year.
EUFOR RCA was originally meant to have deployed last month but insufficient troop and aircraft commitments by the EU’s 28 member states saw this delayed.
“The launch of this operation demonstrates the EU’s determination to take full part in international efforts to restore stability and security in Bangui and right across CAR.
“It forms part of our comprehensive approach to solving the huge challenges faced by CAR. It is vital there is a return to public order as soon as possible so the political transition process can be put back on track,” Ashton said.
European and African leaders are today expected to hold crisis talks on the escalating violence in CAR as about 80 nations gather in Brussels for a key EU Summit.
Thirteen EU nations, including Britain and Germany, as well as 12 African states, including Chad and Gabon, will hold talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the Belgian capital today.