Mali: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Mali

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Washington, DC — Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Yesterday, a question --

MS. NULAND: Mais en Francais.

QUESTION: Nothing French. (Laughter.) A question on Mali.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: The French Foreign Minister said yesterday night that the U.S.

and France are very close to strike a deal at the UN to get a resolution on Mali. And he said also that there was no disagreement between the two countries on Mali. Can you confirm that? And do you have any detail on what would be this resolution - sorry - and when could be voted?

MS. NULAND: I didn't see the Foreign Minister's comments, but I did say last week here that we were working very hard with France to get through some of the technical problems and problems of phasing that we'd had together, and my report from New York very much corresponds, that we are trying to work it through. We're trying to work it through so that we can have action this week. There are issues of ensuring from our perspective that there is no rewarding of Sanogo and his counterparts.

There are also issues having to do with funding. The U.S. is obviously precluded from supporting any activity with the Mali military financially. So there are all those kinds of things, and we want to ensure that both with regard to the proposed European Union training mission and with regard to follow-on support for ECOWAS or another appropriate African force to support a move north, that all of these things are well thought through, that they are funded, that they are phased properly. So we're continuing to work on that with France and with our other partners and hoping we can wrap it up this week, because the issues are urgent.

QUESTION: Fabius also mentioned, like you have, just on the - one of the issues is one of cost. Is there a projected cost for this force?

MS. NULAND: I'm going to send you to our folks in New York. They are closer to the issues. But again, it depends on precisely what you're talking about. There is a proposal for a first stage of training for the Mali military, which the EU would lead. They're in the process now of scoping and funding, so they may also have more information than we do.

With regard to the follow-on force and whether there is an ECOWAS force that goes with the Mali military north, again, this speaks to the issue of exactly how it is done and supported by the international community.

It goes to how many, it goes to who. So all of those issues are being worked through now, Jo.

QUESTION: So the U.S. is precluded from any activity involving the Mali military because of the coup, the sanctions that --

MS. NULAND: Right. Under Leahy.

QUESTION: And those - and obviously those remain in place. But what has to happen for them to be removed?

MS. NULAND: We have to have democratic elections, right? And we've called for democratic elections and restoration of democratic governance, which we've called for by April.

QUESTION: Okay. And so the arrest of the former prime minister and the establishment of a new prime minister and his naming of a government doesn't count as a re-establishment --

MS. NULAND: It is an interim step, and very much a necessary step on the way to elections, but we do need to have democratic elections.

QUESTION: And there's no way that if you wanted to, if the Administration wanted to, it could somehow waive the sanctions to help out this force?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we're working through exactly what might be required here. But at the moment, we are not in a position to support the Mali military, particularly because we need to ensure that anything that goes forward in New York isolates the coup-sters, if you will, and make sure that they are not beneficiaries in any way. So we need to work through all of those things.

QUESTION: Or is there a way, if you are able to isolate the coup-sters, that --

MS. NULAND: You like my word?

QUESTION: Yeah. It's a great word.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Coup-sters.

MS. NULAND: Coup-sters.

QUESTION: -- that you could - that others could get U.S. support or --

MS. NULAND: Again, we'd have to go to the Hill and work it through. But what we don't want to do is back off at all from an insistence that democracy be restored, that elected governance be restored in Mali.

Remember that we need to be consistent, not only with regard to Mali but not rewarding coups anywhere in the world and in Africa.

QUESTION: So then if that stays the same, and there is no re-establishment of democratic governance and there's no way you can get the Hill to give you a loophole or something like that, that means the Europeans would basically have to fund this whole thing themselves?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, I don't want to get too much into the details, particularly because this is being negotiated. But the expectation is that there are two pieces of this. One is a training mission for the Mali government that the European Union would be involved with. So that would probably go through first. And then, simultaneously, one would be working with ECOWAS or ECOWAS-plus to shape a force that could accompany a retrained, refitted Malian military going north.

So when that second piece would come forward, in terms of when the help would be required and whether any help would be required to Malians beyond the European mission, remains to be seen. So you could see a division of labor, whereby we played a role in helping ECOWAS, the Europeans played a role in helping the Malians, and the two came together as soon as they were ready, but maybe not until after we had elections as well. So there are a lot of pieces moving and a lot of variables.

QUESTION: But then again, but - okay. I'm just - but if there are - if elections have already happened, then presumably you could say that governance had been restored, and then you wouldn't have those sanctions, correct?

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: So I'm not sure I understand why you want to have the second half after the election, when you could go ahead - at a point when you could go ahead and fund the Malians directly. It sounds as though you're willing to help ECOWAS, I don't know, pay for Nigerian troops or whoever else.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: But doesn't - isn't that - doesn't that have the same effect as helping the Malians? Isn't that kind of contrary to at least the spirit of the Leahy Amendment?

MS. NULAND: No, because you can't give money to the military of a country that's been involved in a coup until democratic governance is restored. You can give support - and again, I don't want to get - let's have a separate conversation about this. But you can --

QUESTION: Okay. But I just - it sounds a bit odd, because you can give money to another military that's helping to prop up the coup-sters?

MS. NULAND: Again, this is one of the issues that we're trying to work through in the UN Security Council resolution with France that we want to have it explicit in this resolution that neither of these activities are going to benefit coup-sters, right? So -

All right. Lalit.

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