Turkey to send 17 soldiers to EU force in DR Congo

ANKARA, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – The Turkish parliament voted late Tuesday to contribute 17 soldiers and a C-130 cargo plane to a European military force that will police the first free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, parliamentary sources said Wednesday.

According to the motion that was voted unanimously, the soldiers will serve in the African country from July 30 to November 30 to provide air defence and are expected home before the end of the year.

This will be Turkey’s first European military operation outside the scope of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), of which it is a member, Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul told parliament.

The soldiers will be part of a 2,000-strong EUFOR European Union force to be deployed in the DRC next month to back an existing 17,000 United Nations peacekeeping troops in the country for the elections.

The European force will be deployed for the duration of the presidential, local, and legislative polls scheduled to last for four months from July 29.