Prague - Prague could send military transport helicopters to Sudan´s Darfur in 2015 at the earliest, Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek said during a ceremonial awarding of soldiers today, reacting to U.N. Under-Secretary general Herve Ladsous´ interest in Czech helicopters´ assistance in Sudan.
Ministr obrany Vlastimil Picek (vlevo) vyznamenal 4. října v Praze příslušníky jednotky, která působila v rámci výcvikové mise Evropské unie v africkém Mali. ČTK Krumphanzl Michal
The situation in Darfur is very complex, Picek told journalists.
"The biggest problem there concerns transport helicopters because the infrastructure there is very poor," Picek said.
He said the U.S. has addressed not only the Czech Republic but also other countries, asking them to provide transport helicopters.
A possible sending of a Czech helicopter unit to Sudan will be decided on only by the next Czech government and parliament, which will emerge from the October 25-26 early elections, said Picek, a member of the caretaker cabinet.
"If the new government nodded to the plan and proposed it to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, I´d expect the helicopters to set out [for Sudan[ in 2015 at the earliest, maybe even later," Picek said.
The ministry will study the U.S. request, he added.
Picek said he does not know how much a possible operation of Czech helicopters in Sudan would cost.
He said, nevertheless, that the U.N. covers countries´ participation in U.N.-organised missions.
At talks with Picek last week, Ladsous also showed interest in a possible operation of three Czech combat helicopters in Mali.
At present, a Czech unit is staying in Mali to train local armed forces within an EU mission.
"The Malian army is in a situation where it needs not only training but naturally also equipment. And it needs the whole infrastructure," Czech military chief-of-staff Petr Pavel told journalists today.
He said he expects the EU to discuss ways to help the Malian army in future, in order to make Mali capable of defending itself against Islamist rebels.
A second Czech contingent is staying in Mali now. The first contingent´s members were presented with medals for their service abroad by Picek at Prague´s Vitkov National Memorial today.