Other European countries will soon deploy troops to the Central African Republic, according to France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Exactly which countries will offer support, however, remains unknown.
Speaking in front of the French lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on Tuesday, Fabius provided few details on the deployments, such as the number of troops and which nations they would hail from.
"We will soon have troops on the ground provided by our European colleagues,” Fabius said, having revealed in a radio interview on Sunday that Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium were already assisting with logistics. Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters on Tuesday that it would provide aid, without explicitly pledging to send troops.
Belgium had announced on Friday that 35 soldiers would accompany tactical aircraft to provide logistical support for at least two months, but had committed nothing past that.
More than 600 Burundian troops arrived on Tuesday according to news agency dpa, with 850 to be on the ground in the Central African Republic by December 19. They will be part of the United Nation's African-led International Support Mission (MISCA) - numbering around 3,500 - that also has support from 1,600 French troops.
Their arrival - and the news of further support from Europe - comes at an important time, with French soldiers launching a dawn offensive on a base of Christian militia in the northern district of the capital Bangui on Tuesday. Weapons were seized and ammunition neutralized in another attempt to disarm the militia groups destabilizing the country.
"This was an operation to make a district safe," General Francois Soriano told journalists.
The United Nations put the number of people forced from their homes since fresh fighting broke out in December at 210,000, making it around 710,000 displaced since the violence began in November 2012. Thousands of others have fled the nation completely, crossing into neighboring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo to find safety.
Fighting between rival Muslim and Christian militia has grown increasingly bloody as the country's President Michel Djotodia lost control of the troops that helped deliver him to power.
The Seleka rebels that installed Djotodia - the Central African Republic's first Muslim leader - in place of ousted president Francois Bozize made Christians their targets, leading to the creation of rival militia.
Christian militia are believed to be responsible for the attack that sparked the new round of fighting in December, with the arrival of troops still to subdue the violence. Two French soldiers have died in the fighting.
"The situation is very serious and appears to be worsening," UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told news agency AFP.
"We have visibility on the situation in parts of Bangui and Bossangoa [in the north west] and some other areas, but there are large parts of the country where systematic understanding of the situation is very, very thin at the moment. We are worried ... It's very, very violent."
In comments to AFP, Central African Republic Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye has appealed for calm “so that peace can return,” saying unity was the nation's “sole wealth.”
But Djotodia drew the ire of the international community by dismissing three members of his government over the weekend, going against the terms of an agreement signed by predecessor Bozize that was aimed at moving towards a transitional government.
ph/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)