EU plans joint forces in CAR to stop massacres

January 09, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

BRUSSELS: European Union nations will consider plans for a joint military operation in the Central African Republic as worsening sectarian strife there raises fears of large-scale civilian massacres, EU sources said.

Ambassadors to the EU will be asked at a meeting tomorrow whether to approve the rapid deployment of a European military force that could include hundreds of troops to help African and French peacekeepers already on the ground to restore security, said an EU official speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The question (to ambassadors) will be ‘Do you think the situation in the Central African Republic merits European involvement?’

“If they agree, detailed options will be put on the table on Monday or Tuesday,” the official said.

A final decision would be taken by the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers at talks in Brussels on January 20.

Some 1,600 French troops and 4,000 UN-mandated African peacekeepers have deployed across the impoverished state in recent weeks to end violence between Christian militias and ex-rebels who installed the country’s first Muslim leader in a coup in March. The violence is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people last month alone with almost one million people driven from their homes, including half of the residents of the capital, Bangui.

An EU proposal sent to member nations for consideration says “the immediate and pressing need is the restoration of security throughout the territory to avoid CAR sliding towards complete state failure on the previous Somalia model, and large scale massacres against the civilian population.”

“Restoration of security can only be achieved through increasing the military presence on the ground,” the document states.

It suggests the dispatch “rapidly” of a force that could number around 1,000 people, an EU diplomatic source said. With the CAR’s institutions in disarray, the force could take on policing duties in the capital while protecting refugees and aid workers and possibly safeguarding the airport, taking over there from French troops.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday urged Greece to stay the course of painful economic reforms as he inaugurated the country’s six-month stint in the rotating EU presidency.

“This is not the time to slow down the pace of reforms,” Barroso said, adding: “My point is very clear: (adjustment) programmes work, so we should not waste the efforts so far.”

The Greek presidency is expected to focus on growth and jobs, the implementation of a historic banking union thrashed out by finance ministers at the end of 2013, as well as immigration and maritime policy.AFP