The United Nations Security Council has welcomed the successful transfer of authority Sunday from European forces to U.N. peacekeepers in Chad and the Central African Republic. The new force of about 2,300 soldiers is mandated to protect refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The Security Council praised the European Union for its deployment of some 3,300 troops, which over the past year have helped maintain calm in eastern Chad and the northeastern Central African Republic.
Those two countries have been directly affected by years of violence in neighboring Sudan's western Darfur region, with armed groups conducting attacks in their territory, displacing tens of thousands of civilians.
Czech Ambassador Martin Palous, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, said the experience of the European mission could serve as the foundation for future cooperation.
"The European Union managed to exert a significant impact on the ground in Chad/Central African Republic through its complimentary efforts on the political, diplomatic, military and development fronts. In this regard, our intention is to avoid a security vacuum while accomplishing the transition," he said.
To that end, about 2,000 of the European troops will remain through the end of this year as part of the U.N. force, which is known as MINURCAT.
New members of the mission include African, Asian and European countries, including Ghana, Nepal, Norway and Togo.
Meanwhile, international organizations worry that a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Darfur after 13 international aid groups were expelled, could send thousands more refugees into eastern Chad in search of assistance.
French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said that issue was raised during the Security Council's meeting and that the United Nations said for the moment there was no sign of such an influx. "But to prepare, MINURCAT is preparing itself with the NGOs and all the humanitarian community to be in a position to face such an influx. And they are also keeping in close relationship with UNAMID and UNMIS on the other side of the border," the diplomat said.
UNAMID and UNMIS are the two U.N. peacekeeping missions that operate in southern Sudan and Darfur.
The U.N. mission in Chad and the Central African Republic will also work to create the conditions for the voluntary return of displaced persons to their original homes.