10 January 2013

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


Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Can I go to Mali, please?


QUESTION: There's been renewed fighting in northern Mali, and today, we're being told that one of the government towns in the center of the country, Kona, has been seized by the rebels. EU representative - Special Representative (inaudible) said to Catherine Ashton came out and said this shows that the need for a force in northern Mali is now urgent. And I wondered what the United States position was on that.

MS. NULAND: Well, certainly on the ground situation, we've seen a number of conflicting reports, both about the village of Kona, which is along the front line. Also, there were reports that the Malian army had recaptured Douentza. Those are not confirmed either.

Look, we've considered this situation in Mali urgent for a number of months now, and we are eager to see the swiftest possible implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2085. That requires a number of steps. We need to come to closure on the funding mechanism. We need to have more clarity, as we are waiting on, from ECOWAS with regard to its concept of operation for this force. As you know, the European Union is also going to support increased training of the Malian military. We're very much supportive of that, and we're prepared to work with the EU on all of that. We want to see all of these things implemented as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: There's some rumors that there's disputes going on between ECOWAS and African Union now about the makeup of this force. Is that something that you're aware about, that you can speak to?

MS. NULAND: I don't have any details here. I think there has been a question about which nations might be able to contribute. There are a number of African countries that are tied down in other peacekeeping missions. This is also tied to the funding mechanism. Countries that are going to contribute need to know that they're going to be supported over the long term. So these are some of the issues that still need to be worked through both in an African context and within the UN context.

QUESTION: And where are we time-wise at the UN on actually getting this pulled together and some kind of fruition on a force being agreed on?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, under UN Security Council 2085, we had a broad agreement subject to more information coming forward from ECOWAS and the forces with regard to the concept of operation, the rules of engagement, all that stuff. So we're waiting for that on the African side. And we're still have a conversation in New York, as I understand it, and you can check with your folks in New York on exactly how the funding mechanism would work. So this is - we are trying to light a fire under everybody wherever we find them because it is urgent.


QUESTION: I'm sorry I missed the top of your briefing.

MS. NULAND: So let's do it again. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Central African Republic?

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Bozize says that he's facing foreign terrorists. Has the State Department made an assessment about the forces that are opposing the government, as you have in Mali, for instance, to determine whether they are, indeed, foreign terrorists or if the Seleka rebel group are citizens of CAR?

MS. NULAND: I'm getting the high sign here that the President is getting ready to go out. Let me simply say in general on Central African Republic the talks have begun in Libreville. They began yesterday. We want to see all of the groups sitting down together in finding a way forward, as I said yesterday, and we look forward to any of these concerns and grievances being hashed out at the table there.

Thank you, all.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

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