Georgia's government has quickly approved a proposal to send a contingent of peacekeeping troops on a European Union mission to the Central African Republic, while Turkey is taking its time on making a decision about whether to send its own soldiers.
A little more than a week ago, Georgia and Turkey both began considering participation in the EU mission, which is being quickly put together for deployment some time in March. In that time the Georgian government made a decision to send a company to the CAR and the parliament approved it on a 106-1 vote. The company will deploy in March for a six-month period, Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said in announcing the decision. (It's not clear how big a company in the Georgian armed forces is, but internationally a company is generally on the order of 100 soldiers.)
Turkey, meanwhile, is taking a more deliberate approach. It is sending a "special representative and a humanitarian assessment team" to the CAR this week and will make a decision after that trip. Turkey is sending the assessment team “in order to elaborate how we can contribute effectively to the situation and what has to be done,” said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu at a meeting Thursday of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
For Turkey, that Muslims make up many of the victims appears to be an important part of the calculation. “The Turkish presence in the mission would be significant for the Muslim community in particular, but also by the people of the country in general. Turkey would also be able to show its power in contributing to the peacekeeping mission," Turkey's ambassador to Chad Ahmet Kavas told the newspaper Today's Zaman. "However, it is for the Turkish government to decide whether to take part in the mission or not. In several parts of the world, Turkey has always contributed to peace in conflict-torn countries."
And Davotoglu added: “Nobody should think that Turkey has no interest in the Central African Republic. I discussed the situation in the Central African Republic with all of its neighbors at the African summit last month. We stated that Turkey would take part in any effort in order to halt the massacres carried out against the Muslim community in the country."
There is also an internal political element to the deliberations: Turkey's main opposition party has come out against the deployment.
The total mission is expected to total about 1,000 soldiers, though a third of those may be French; France already has 1,600 troops in the country on a unilateral mission.