150 Georgian troops contribute to African mission

So far, nations had offered 600 troops to take part in the French-led mission, Alasania said.Getty Image.
Agenda.ge, 01 Mar 2014 - 18:43, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian authorities have confirmed 150 troops will be sent to the troubled Central African Region to take part in a European Union military peacekeeping mission.

Being involved in the EU Security and Defence Mission was "morally right”, particularly for country’s neighbouring Russia, said Georgia’s Defence Minister Irakli Alasania.

"[Georgia’s contribution will] not only give help to the EU but for us it is also a moral mission", Alasania told news Agency France Press (AFP).

Georgia's 150 troops will join French and African Union troops help combat the horrific spiral of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic. It will be the nation’s first contribution to an EU Security and Defence Mission and its first operation in Africa, the Minister stated.

So far, nations had offered 600 troops to take part in the French-led mission, Alasania said.

The operation commander French General Philippe Ponties said the total number of troops would likely be between 800-1,000. A more definite number would be known after talks next week to determine the contribution from the EU and other nations, he said.

The aim was to get the first lot of troops on the ground in early March with the French-led force at full capability by the end April. Then, its four-to-six month mandate will begin, Ponties said.

The mission aspired to create "a safe haven" at Bangui airport and in two nearby districts to allow the return of refugees who have fled following violence between Muslim and Christian communities.

More than 100,000 people are living in awful conditions near the airport.

Many of the countries contributing to the mission are from Eastern Europe, including Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Romania. Portugal and Spain are other likely contributors.

Almost a million people have been displaced in the Central African Republic. To date, France has sent 2,000 troops to its former colony to assist almost 6,000 African peacekeepers.

"[Georgia] are future members of the EU and we are future members of NATO, so our commitment is also a commitment to the common values," Alasania said. He stressed the decision had been approved by the majority and the opposition in Parliament.

Georgia, besides Ukraine, is one of six ex-Soviet satellites involved in the EU's Eastern Partnership scheme to bolster mutual ties, will also contribute officers to a separate EU military mission to train Mali's army, he added.