A contingent of about 500 European troops is being sent to assist French and African forces already stationed in the Central African Republic, which is in a state of unrest due largely to sectarian violence. The U.N. Security Council authorized the EU troop increase Tuesday.
The Security Council resolution calling for the EU troop deployment to the Central African Republic, where African Union and French forces are struggling to contain worsening fighting, was unanimously approved.
France co-sponsored the resolution.
France's U.N. Ambassador, Gerard Araud, said the EU troops will take over for French forces protecting 100,000 internally displaced people who have sought refuge at the airport in the capital, Bangui.
"There is a very tense situation. We are starting, I think, to stabilize the situation, but it's still very fragile. So the European Union will protect these people, and it will allow the French forces to deploy more strongly through the city of Bangui... and beyond Bangui to the rest of the country," said Araud.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to report to the Security Council next month on options for a likely U.N. peacekeeping force.
Araud said a U.N. peacekeeping operation is needed
"It's really quite a challenge because there is an incredible amount of resentment and hatred between the two communities, and we are in a sense between a rock and a hard place," said Araud.
More than 1,000 people are feared killed since violence intensified in Bangui in early December. Much of the violence has involved mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian militias known as anti-balaka.
At the airport in Bangui, the thousands of people who have fled the violence are mostly living on the tarmac.
Conditions are grim and sanitation is non-existent. Although food is available in the market, many refugees do not have the money to pay for it.
The scene is one of utter desperation.