A two-day summit attended by leaders of all but a handful of African states, concluded with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday pledging to help the African Union turn its plans for a rapid reaction force, agreed in principle earlier this year, into reality. (Agencies)
"We all agreed on the fundamental principle that it is up to Africa to ensure its own security," Hollande said.
Paris is offering to provide equipment, logistical support and advice on coordination for the force, and will seek to persuade Britain, Germany and other European Union partners to help finance the equipment and arms it will require.
"Europe can play its part. For Europe to ensure its own defence, Africa must be able to ensure its own. Our interests are linked. Terrorism knows no borders," Hollande said.
The summit conclusions also called for a major international mobilization to increase the level and predictability of financing for African peacekeeping operations.
As part of efforts to help African states create more effective military units, France has offered to provide training for 20,000 troops from the continent for five years.
Hollande said that France would have 1,600 troops deployed in CAR, where sectarian violence has left hundreds dead in the last few days alone, by yesterday evening.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised France for being prepared to act in its former colony. "There is an urgent need to avoid further deterioration of the situation," Ban said.
"The chaos and suffering pose a major threat for the international community. I am particularly grateful to all countries contributing to (the African force already in CAR) MISCA and highly commend President Francois Hollande for mobilizing troops so rapidly," he added.
The CAR mission is France's second military operation in Africa this year. In January, Hollande sent more than 4,000 troops to Mali, where Islamist groups had seized control of much of the north of the country and had threatened to advance on the capital Bamako.
The operations have continued a long-established pattern of France intervening militarily on the continent, but Hollande's government insists its approach represents a break from the past, when Paris was often accused of propping up undemocratic regimes and cynically pursuing its own interests in the region.
French officials framed the Mali operation as vital to prevent the country becoming a new Afghanistan-style stronghold for armed Islamist groups, which could destabilize a region where Europe has vital strategic energy interests as well as potentially exporting terrorism.
A two-day summit attended by leaders of all but a handful of African states, concluded with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday pledging to help the African Union turn its plans for a rapid reaction force, agreed in principle earlier this year, into reality.