The European Union has decided to send hundreds of troops to help stabilise the Central African Republic in what will be its first major army operation in six years.
The EU has been spurred into action by communal bloodshed in Central African Republic that led a senior UN official to warn last week of a risk of genocide there without a more decisive international response.
France, which sent 1,600 troops to its former colony last month to stop massacres between Muslim and Christian militias triggered by a March coup, welcomed the EU's move, which follows French lobbying for stronger European support for French and African efforts to halt the violence.
"This means that in cooperation with the U.N. and with the African forces, Europe will militarily support Central African Republic, as we asked," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.
But Fabius said the size of the force under discussion was just 500 soldiers, smaller than the contingent of up to 1,000 soldiers that EU officials had earlier suggested could be dispatched.
Few EU countries have so far come forward with firm offers of troops, and some of the EU force could be French soldiers, EU diplomats said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU's decision to commit troops did not mean it was "the beginning of a big engagement in Africa after Afghanistan."
More than a million people have been displaced by the violence and more than 1,000 people were killed last month alone in Bangui.