Home | News    Wednesday 30 April 2008

Russia provides 4 helicopters to EU’s Darfur force

April 29, 2008 (LUXEMBOURG) — Russia will provide four helicopters to support the EU peacekeeping force in Chad and Central African Republic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Tuesday.

Russia’s participation "will become an important step in strengthening cooperation with the European Union in crisis management," said Solana and Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a joint statement following a meeting in Luxembourg.

Solana hailed the Russians for "taking up positively the request to render assistance" to the EUFOR force, which is having trouble getting the means it requires for the deployment.

A diplomatic source said the four helicopters would involve the sending of around 120 Russian military personnel to fly and maintain them.

There are 1,770 EUFOR troops currently on the ground, from a total planned force of 3,700 due to be operational by the end of June. Some 18 nationalities are represented.

EUFOR began its mission on March 17, several months behind schedule after lengthy negotiations within the EU over contributions as well as a rebel offensive in Chad against the capital Ndjamena which attempted to overthrow the regime of President Idriss Deby Itno.

The EUFOR mission was authorised under a UN Security Council resolution in 2007. It is aimed principally at protecting the Darfur refugees from Sudan in eastern Chad and northeast Central African Republic, as well as the internally displaced Chadians and Central Africans, who number 450,000.

The European operation will also give assistance to the UN mission in Chad and Central Africa (MINURCAT), which has 300 instructors training local police officers to secure the refugee camps.

(AFP)