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Europe

EU, Belgium Rule Out Europe-Led Peace Force in Congo

Both the EU and Belgium said they don't expect Europe to mount a peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, because no country is prepared to take the lead.

A line of refugees fleeing from Goma, eastern Congo

Thousands have been displaced in Congo's ongoing unrest

Javier Solana, the European Union's top diplomat, on Wednesday, Dec. 3, confirmed that the EU was not currently discussing sending troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"For the moment, the question of deploying troops is not being discussed," he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "We will see if we need to do that. For now, it's logistics and intelligence, etc."

His comments come on the heels of similar statements from Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht on Tuesday ruled out a European mission to the DR Congo.

"My feeling is that it is not possible to raise a European operation for the moment," de Gucht said after talks with some EU counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday.

"The chance that we'll get a European mission in Congo is limited, to put it mildly," he added. "No country is ready to take the lead."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has led calls for Europe to provide a rapid reaction force to help overstretched UN peacekeepers halt violence in the North Kivu province, where rebel attacks have displaced a quarter of a million people.

UN favors interim force

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, giving a speech

Ban Ki-moon has called for an EU response

But Congo's former colonial ruler Belgium, which has pledged to contribute troops within any European force, acknowledged after talks with European counterparts in Brussels that there was little likelihood for such a mission.

EU President France called Monday for "urgent" European talks on such a mission. But French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner indicated his country would not be the lead-nation for a deployment, although he had initially appeared keen on European intervention.

England, Germany reluctant

The UN Security Council has approved an additional 3,000 peacekeepers for the Congo mission, but the deployment "is going to take some time," De Gucht told Belgium's VRT television.

France and Belgium last month proposed sending troops to the Congo's eastern Nord-Kivu province to support the UN deployment, already the biggest United Nations peacekeeping mission in the world with 17,000 troops. But other European states, including Germany, are against military input, preferring to pursue humanitarian options and political mediation.

Belgian officials have said the country's colonial past in Congo ruled out it taking any lead role. Britain has also been reluctant to back any such operation.

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