Estonia's military deployment to the Central African Republic will take place in the next two weeks, desk officers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ERR News today, on the day that Estonia and the African nation formalized diplomatic relations.
The fourth division of the ministry's political department said that the delay had been due to the crisis in Ukraine.
The parliament gave the go-ahead in February to deploy up to 55 active duty personnel to the Central African Republic until August 31. Five personnel are authorized to serve there until the end of the year. Estonian personnel will deploy sometime between April 7-19 to the capital city of Bangui.
The crisis in the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine caused the European Union to delay the mission, but it announced Tuesday that the mission would proceed. According to a press release by the Council of the European Union, the operation's mission "is to provide temporary support in achieving a safe and secure environment in the Bangui area, with a view to handing over to a UN peacekeeping operation or to African partners."
"The force will thereby contribute both to international efforts to protect the populations most at risk and to the creation of the conditions for providing humanitaian aid."
The forces will operate in Bangui and in its airport under the acronym EUFOR RCA, which has appointed Major General Philippe Pontiès of France to be the EU's Political and Security Committee's Operation Commander.
France, the former colonial power in the country, deployed 1,600 personnel in support of African Union troops in December after a United Nations Security Council vote authorized military intervention.
The African country was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize. Attempts to purge Muslims from parts of the country by Christian militias have prompted a wave of violence and a growing refugee crisis.
Estonia established diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic in Brussels today, with a communiqué signed by Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and CAR's Foreign Minister Toussaint Kongo-Doudou.
At a meeting with the current president of CAR, Catherine Samba-Panza, and the ministers accompanying her, Rõivas said Estonia is hoping for an improvement in the country's security and humanitarian situation and reiterated Estonia's support for the European Union mission with its military units.
Samba-Panza thanked Rõivas for support and recognized Estonia's decision to take part in the EU military mission to CAR.