BRUSSELS: The European Union on Saturday signalled that it is ready to deploy its delayed peacekeeping force to help put down the escalating crisis in Central African Republic, after obtaining additional backing for the mission.
The troops were due to deploy last week, but there were insufficient soldiers for the mission and not enough aircraft at hand to transport them.
Following new contributions and additional support from France, the “commander of the operation has recommended the launch of the operation and expects a progressive increase in troops in Bangui,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Saturday.
The date of the operation is expected to be announced Wednesday following a meeting of EU member states Tuesday, a European source said.
Diplomats said Germany’s offer of two Antonov aircrafts to carry the troops as well as France’s decision to put more soldiers at the disposal of the mission had helped unblock the impasse.
During an EU summit last week, French President Francois Hollande appealed for European countries to quickly provide enough troops for the mission.
Some 8,000 foreign troops are already on the ground to disarm Central African rebel groups after a year of inter-religious violence.
But even these peacekeepers from the African force MISCA and the French operation Sangaris have come under attack from majority-Christian vigilante groups known as “anti-balaka”.
Concern was heightened by this week’s first anniversary of the toppling of Francois Bozize by rebels of the country’s Muslim minority, which sparked the current unrest.
So-called “anti-balaka” militias were formed in response to killing and looting by Seleka rebels who went rogue after last year’s coup, leading to a deadly spiral of violence.
Thousands have been killed and around a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people displaced. Muslim residents of Bangui have been besieged for weeks by the anti-balaka as well as by looters.