BRUSSELS, January 1 (RIA Novosti) – The EU’s Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton has again expressed concern over continuing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) and urged the parties to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
“I call immediately on authorities to take all necessary measures to end, without delay, all exactions against populations in Bangui neighborhoods that undermine chances of a peaceful dialog,” Ashton said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Central African Republic’s President Francois Bozize on Tuesday reiterated his willingness to negotiate with the Seleka rebel alliance over forming a coalition government – but asked them to allow him to serve out the rest of his term.
Seleka accuse the president of rolling-back on a 2007 peace deal under which rebels who laid down their arms were to be paid and given jobs, and have voiced their doubts that he will step down at the end of his term in 2016.
On Sunday Boizize announced he was ready to negotiate with Seleka and expressed his readiness to participate in African Union-organized talks.
Seleka fighters seized control of key towns in several areas as they moved towards the capital, with reports surfacing over the weekend of renewed fighting between Seleka and government forces in the vicinity of Bangui. On Saturday night the capital was put under curfew.
As of Tuesday, Seleka were reportedly holding positions just 75 km from Bangui.
In response to the worsening situation in CAR, France sent additional troops to Bangui, while the United States deployed 50 servicemen to neighboring Chad.
Troops from Chad are currently deployed in the CAR under a Central African States’ multinational force joint mandate (FOMAC). Boizize thanked them in his New Year’s message “without the Chadian army we would no longer be here.”
On December 24, Mikhail Margelov, the Russian president’s special envoy for cooperation with African countries warned that, given the escalation of the internal conflict in the Central African Republic, the involvement of neighboring Chad, and instability in Mali, Darfur, South Sudan, Sudan, and Congo – the conflict in CAR “threatens the stability of the continent as a whole.”
The EU is the country’s main foreign donor. The Central African Republic is rich in natural resources such as timber, gold, diamonds and uranium, but 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to EU data.