The UN Security Council gave the EU and the UN a green light on Monday to prepare for a new deployment to help protect civilians in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) caught in the spillover of the conflict in Darfur.
A council statement giving preliminary approval to the deployment of EU troops and UN police was read at a Security Council meeting on Monday afternoon by the council president, Republic of the Congo Deputy UN Ambassador Pascal Gayama.
The statement expressed the council's readiness to authorize an international operation for a year to protect refugees, internally displaced people and civilians at risk in eastern Chad and the northeastern CAR -- and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.
French UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, whose country drafted the statement, said last week that the year-long deployment of EU troops and UN police would probably be followed by a UN peacekeeping operation, a view echoed by US Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff.
French Deputy UN Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the statement sends an important "message of concern for the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Chad and the Central African Republic" and the need for the international community to take action.
The four-year conflict in Darfur has spilled over into the northeast CAR and eastern Chad, resulting in "the very serious deterioration of the stability and security situation in this region," he said.
"This has had very serious humanitarian consequences -- more refugees, more displaced persons, and more insecurity for these refugees and displaced persons," Lacroix said.
"That is why ... parallel to the effort that is being made by the international community in Darfur, we need to do what is needed to protect those" people, he said.
Ripert said last week that there are now 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people in Chad and more than 200,000 displaced people in the northern CAR.
Since the Security Council visited Darfur and Chad in June last year, the UN has been talking about deploying international police and troops to the two impoverished countries on the volatile border with Darfur.
Chadian President Idriss Deby opposed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's original proposal for deployment of a UN military force but agreed to an EU force after meeting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in June.
With Deby's approval and the EU's agreement last month to start planning for a possible 3,000-strong peacekeeping mission, the pieces finally appear to be finally falling into place.
Lacroix said the council statement sends a "political signal" of support -- especially to the EU -- to go ahead with planning for the deployment.
A joint EU-UN mission is visiting both countries and he said the council's backing will be important for their recommendations to an EU Council of Ministers meeting on Sept. 17, which will make a final decision on deploying an EU force.
In a report to the Security Council earlier this month, Ban proposed a UN-mandated mission with three main components: an EU military force; a new unit of Chad's police to maintain law and order in refugee camps, key towns and areas with large numbers of displaced civilians in eastern Chad; and a broad UN presence including up to 300 international police, military liaison officers and experts in human rights and civil affairs.