EU hails French role in CAR, to decide on mission January
European Union leaders hailed France's intervention in the Central African Republic on Friday and promised a decision on a possible EU support mission in January.
"This is the second time in a year that France has courageously taken the lead in a serious crisis," EU President Herman Van Rompuy said, referring to French intervention in Mali early this year.
"The French response has helped avoid a civil war, perhaps even genocide" in CAR, Van Rompuy said at the close of a two-day EU leaders' summit.
Van Rompuy praised French President Francois Hollande by name and said leaders had asked EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton to report back by January on the options available to help France.
In the meantime, Van Rompuy stressed the importance of direct help from member states.
Hollande told a separate press conference he was "not asking for troops for military action.
"What we need, is a presence at specific points, such as the airport," he said.
"What I would like to see, politically, is a European presence," Hollande said earlier. "That is not be said that 'France is alone.'"
German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that "we cannot finance a military mission if we are not involved in the decision-making process."
Merkel said she had told her EU colleagues that a "European Union mandate would also be necessary to back this kind of political mission."
Van Rompuy, noting that the summit was dedicated to defence policy, said the CAR crisis once again showed the importance of Europe having rapid reaction forces and structures to allow it to "meet its responsibilities when necessary."
France has deployed some 1,600 troops to CAR under a UN mandate to quell deadly sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians.
© 2013 AFP