EU countries provisionally agree African mission
10.01.14 @ 21:47
BRUSSELS - EU countries have provisionally agreed to send troops to Bangui airport to protect civilians and distribute aid.
An EU source told EUobserver that member states' ambassadors on the Political and Security Committee "unanimously" endorsed the proposal at a meeting in Brussels on Friday (10 January).
The final decision is to be taken by foreign ministers on 20 January.
Details on the composition and mandate of the "battalion"-sized force will be worked out in the next few weeks.
Another EU diplomat told this website the ambassadors voiced "overwhelming support" for the need to intervene in the "awful" sectarian conflict and to "show solidarity" with France, the former colonial power in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has already deployed troops under a UN Security Council mandate.
Some 100,000 refugees are currently taking shelter at Bangui airport under French protection.
The initial proposals included an alternative option - to send the EU force to patrol roads from CAR to neighbouring Cameroon.
But French President Francois Hollande voiced preference for the airport mission at the last EU summit in December.
A third EU contact said the airport operation is considered to be "safer" and "more easy to execute successfully" than setting up roving patrols on the Cameroon access points.
The conflict erupted in 2012, but escalated last year when rebels entered the capital.
Christian-Muslim clashes are said to have claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced almost 1 million people in the past few months alone.
CAR is a mineral-rich state, which hosts uranium mining investments by French firm Areva.