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Latvia should send ’several dozen’ troops to Central Africa conflict

Jan 21, 2014
From wire reports, RIGA

Several dozen Latvian soldiers could be sent to the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic, outgoing defense minister Artis Pabriks has said

Pabriks (Unity), who will be replaced in the new government, said the final decision should rest with the new government.

Latvia's involvement in the CAR would be on a lesser scale when compared to Afghanistan, as about several dozen soldiers could be sent.

''I believe this could be several dozen soldiers. In order to more precisely determine Latvia's involvement in this operation, we must first acquaint ourselves with the mission's military planning. Knowing that Estonia and Lithuania have also agreed in principle to participate in this mission, I do not see a political scenario in which Latvia cannot participate in this mission.

"I believe that we will find out all the necessary information within the next month regarding the CAR mission, and then we will decide how to act,'' the minister pointed out.

Estonia has agreed to send 55 soldiers to the conflict which has killed 1,000 people and displaced over one million amid clashes between Christian and Muslim militias.

The AFP news agency reports that the EU agreed Monday, Jan. 20 to send hundreds of troops to the Central African Republic in a rare joint military mission aimed at ending months of sectarian violence.

Saying Europe was "deeply concerned by the extreme insecurity and instability" in the impoverished nation, EU foreign ministers gave "political approval" to the rapid deployment of a force expected to number between 400 and 600.

The military mission is to help establish a safe and secure environment around the capital Bangui.

It will back up French and African forces and eventually hand over to African or UN peacekeepers after a four- to six-month period.

Britain, like Germany, has offered logistical support for the French operation but has repeatedly made clear it would not send troops.

Once a UN mandate has been obtained for the mission, which may be approved as early as Thursday in New York, EU planners hope to get troops on the ground by late February, diplomats said.

Along with the French, some 4,000 African troops are in CAR under a UN mandate, trying to end violence between Christian militias and ex-rebels who installed the country's first Muslim leader in a coup in March.

Last week the UN's humanitarian operations director warned the country risked descending into genocide.
Latvia is currently participating in a military mission in Africa's Mali as well.

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