Turkey mulls sending soldiers in Central African Republic

Turkey mulls sending soldiers in Central African Republic

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey mulls sending soldiers in Central African Republic

Women and children sit at the back of a truck as the prepare to flee sectarian violence in a convoy towards the border with Cameroon, in the west of the Central African Republic, March 9. REUTERS photo

Turkey has yet to make a decision to respond to the EU’s demand to contribute to the mission of deploying troops to the Central African Republic, but is considering sending a group of army officers and an aircraft. Political approval from Turkish leaders is not expected before the March 30 local elections.

Ankara is considering sending some army officers to be charged at the headquarters and/or send a C130 aircraft, but the political decision has not yet been made, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The General Staff is still considering the military contribution and a political decision will be made by the Turkish government. In late January, the U.N. Security Council authorized European troops to use force in the Central African Republic.

The 15-nation council unanimously backed a resolution allowing a proposed EU contingent to use “all of the necessary force” to protect civilians who have been caught up in 10 months of strife since rebels seized power.

EU requests troop deployment

The EU had already requested Turkey to deploy troops to the Central African Republic as part of a union-wide effort.

The request to send troops was brought to the attention of Turkey in Brussels on Feb. 13 at a meeting under the leadership of French Maj. Gen. Philippe Ponties, who has been appointed the commander of the EU military operation in the Central African Republic.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, wrote a letter to Ankara on Feb. 14 asking about the prospects of Turkish assistance.

The Central African Republic has been torn apart since the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize a year ago and replaced him with their leader Michel Djotodia. Violence - including murders, rapes and torched homes - has continued despite Djotodia’s ouster in January, as mostly Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) vigilantes have taken their revenge on local Muslims.

Thousands have been killed and around a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people displaced as 8,000 African and French peacekeeping troops struggle to rein in the militias terrorizing the population.

Cameroon has received more than 44,000 more refugees from Central African in the past year, adding to the 92,000 who were there before the crisis began, according to the UNHCR.