United Nations (New York)

22 January 2013

Mali: Top UN Official Tells Security Council Crisis in Mali Could Be At Turning Point, but Military Action Must Be Matched By Equal Focus On Political Challenges

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In briefing, political affairs head says, as UN looks for solutions, must remember factors that led to collapse of democracy 10 months ago 'run deep'

With French and Malian forces carrying out joint military operations to regain control of areas seized by armed extremists over the past 10 months, a senior United Nations official today said that the crisis in Mali could be at a potential turning point, and as the Security Council now prepared to consider long-term solutions, it must examine the deep-seated challenges that had led to the shocking eruption of violence in the once vaunted West African democracy.

"Solutions will not likely come quickly or simply. Dangers line the path ahead," said Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as he warned the Council during a briefing on the situation in Mali that the factors behind the country's sudden collapse - and the swift takeover of its northern half by extremists - ran deep.

Though the military struggle for Mali was now engaged, he said that those operations must take place in a framework of a political process that ensured sustainable peace, stability and national reconciliation.

"Vigorous military actions must be matched by an equally strong focus on the political challenges in Mali," he continued, underscoring that whether the international community would be successful in helping Mali restore its democracy and recapture its territory would depend on the breadth of its vision and the comprehensiveness of its response.

Such actions must be carried out with full attention to human rights concerns, and should be reinforced by strategies to address the many transnational threats that combined to breed extremism and weaken governance not just in Mali, but across the wider Sahel.

He went on to report that deployment of AFISMA and Headquarters staff had begun on 18 January, and as of 20 January, some 855 troops were dispatched from Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, as well as a full Nigerian battalion, to the border with Mali. Key stakeholders all generally agreed that the envisaged AFISMA strength of 3,300 personnel needed to be increased if it was to engage effectively in offensive operations and enhance force protection.

"AFISMA is currently facing critical gaps, including communications capacity, air mobility and medical capabilities," he said, adding that it was expected that the deployed contingents would have only very limited capacities for self-sustainment. Malian defence and security forces also had capacity gaps that needed to be addressed immediately.

Mr. Feltman also drew the Council's attention to the Secretary-General's recent letter detailing several funding options for United Nations logistical support for the Mission, as well as several concerns regarding capacity, human rights, and the safety and security of United Nations personnel and facilities.

He also reported that the start-up team for the establishment of the United Nations multi-disciplinary presence had arrived in Bamako and renewed contacts with stakeholders to continue discussion on implementation of all aspects of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012), including political and security processes.

"The United Nations will continue to impress upon Malian leaders the need to agree quickly on a road map to restore effectively constitutional order," and he urged others to reinforce that message, for reliance on an exclusively military approach would not allow for the building of a lasting solution for Mali.

Indeed, he said, the full spectrum of Mali's problems - severe political, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges - must be seen in the context of the broader Sahel region.

The meeting also heard Ambassadors from among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other countries in the region applaud the decision by the French Government nearly two weeks ago to deploy troops to help stop "the troubling push" southward by extremists.

They also made strong appeals for broader international assistance, which would allow the Malian Government to implement a road map towards stability and reconciliation, with the representative of Mali assuring that Council that, while the armed groups continued to defy the international community, Malian authorities, at the highest levels, had constantly sought a political solution and deployed "unflagging efforts" to achieve peace.

Unfortunately, given the jihadist attitudes of the combatants, armed aggression continued along with the further seizure of territory, under a scorched earth policy.

That, he continued, had inflicted great suffering on the Malian people and caused the President to declare an emergency situation throughout the nation. He had requested and obtained, under international law, France's military support, to halt the advance of terrorists, not only to Mali, but to other countries in the region.

Speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, the representative of Côte d'Ivoire noted that that recent events in Algeria had thrown into stark relief the ongoing "savage" threats posed by terrorists, as well as the need for international solidarity to deal with those threats. He went on to update the Council on recent activities carried out by ECOWAS, including the appointments to AFISMA's military command, as well as the establishment of a joint mechanism to monitor implementation of resolution 2085 (2012).

He said that the ECOWAS presidency, along with the African Union, had called for the holding in Addis Ababa on 29 January a Donors' Conference that would focus on that Mission's immediate needs. With AFISMA facing ongoing funding and equipment gaps, there was concern that the Mission would not be able to deploy in a sustained manner much beyond Bamako and a few other areas.

He reiterated ECOWAS' appeal to the Secretary-General to remain personally involved in activities regarding the financing and equipping of AFISMA. Further, he urged the Secretary-General to consider chairing the upcoming Donors' Conference, which would heighten international awareness and add urgency to the matter.

Also speaking were the representatives of Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin and Nigeria.

The permanent Observer of the African Union also addressed the Council, as did the head of the delegation of the European Union.

The meeting began at 3:17 p.m. and adjourned at 5:15 p.m.

Background

The Security Council met this afternoon to hear a briefing from the Department of Political Affairs on the situation in Mali.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that the Council was convening at a potential turning point in the crisis in Mali. The military struggle over the country's northern territory had been engaged, and the Secretary-General had applauded France for its courageous decision to deploy forces to halt the troubling push by extremists southward.

The Secretary-General had also expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union and troop contributors to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to accelerate deployment.

He had also been clear in his instructions that the United Nations was to move "with all speed" to contribute to resolving the crisis, within the Organization's mandates and in line with Security Council resolution 2085 (2012).

"As we focus today on solutions in Mali, let us not forget that the factors behind the sudden collapse 10 months ago of one of West Africa's most vaunted democracies, and the takeover of half of the country by extremists, run deep," he said, underscoring that solutions would not likely come quickly or simply and that dangers lined the path ahead.

Whether the international community was successful in helping Mali restore its democracy and recapture its territory in a lasting away would depend on the breadth of its vision and the comprehensiveness of its response.

"Vigorous military actions must be matched by an equally strong focus on the political challenges in Mali," he said, adding that such actions must be carried out with full attention to human rights and humanitarian concerns, and they should be reinforced by strategies to address the many transnational threats that combined to breed extremism and weaken governance not just in Mali, but across the wider Sahel.

Turning to the current situation on the ground, he told the Council that the dynamics in Northern Mali had shifted dramatically in recent days, as the fall of Konna on 10 January, as part of an apparent attempt by extremists to push towards Bamako, had had the effect of galvanizing concern by Mali and its friends and accelerating regional and international response to the crisis.

The capabilities of the armed groups occupying northern Mali had proven to be strong, as they were better equipped and trained than had been initially anticipated. That had been illustrated just last week when radical forces had opened a new front in Diabaly, only 350 kilometres from the capital.

While the extremist armed groups' advance into Mali had been successfully repelled and the fighters had reportedly fled those areas, he said it appeared that in the west, armed elements had moved closer to the Mauritanian border. Meanwhile, the latest reports indicated that the cities of Konna and Diabaly were now under control of the Malian army.

Military sources in Bamako had reported that the extremists' intention to keep up their attacks on southern towns, including Bamako, remained high, Mr. Feltman said as he turned to update the Council on related events in the wider subregion. Among other events, he said that Nigerian troops on the way to Mali had been attacked on 20 January in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram.

He urged Member States that had any more intelligence about the situation in Mali or the region to share that information with the United Nations. He went on to say that on 19 January, ECOWAS had held an extraordinary summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to review that latest development, particularly the modalities for an accelerated deployment of African forces.

The Summit had endorsed the appointment of AFISMA's military command, called on troop-contributing countries to make their contingents immediately available and authorized AFISMA contingents to engage in operations.

He said that deployment of AFISMA and Headquarters staff had begun on 18 January, and as of 20 January, some 855 troops were dispatched from Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, as well as a full Nigerian battalion, to the border with Mali. Key stakeholders all generally agreed that the envisaged AFISMA strength of 3,300 personnel needed to be increased if it was to engage effectively in offensive operations and enhance force protection.

Due to the accelerated deployment of AFISMA troops, critical equipment, along with logistical and other support for those forces was urgently required. The United Nations would support the Mission in planning activities, including assessing the units' equipment and operational readiness.

"AFISMA is currently facing critical gaps, including communications capacity, air mobility and medical capabilities," he said, adding that it was expected that the deployed contingents would have only very limited capacities for self-sustainment. Malian defence and security forces also had capacity gaps that needed to be addressed immediately.

He said that ECOWAS and the African Union were currently finalizing a comprehensive list of priority requirements and Malian authorities were doing the same, and that information would inform the upcoming Donors' Conference to be convened by the African Union in Addis Ababa on 29 January. In a welcome development, the European Union had established on 17 January a Common Security and Defence Policy mission headed by France, which was expected to be on the ground in Mali by mid-February. That mission was expected to support training and re-organization of Malian forces.

As for the position of the United Nations, he said that the Secretary-General was firmly committed to using the tools of the Organization, as authorized by the Council, to help address the crisis in Mali and promote implementation of resolution 2085 (2012). The Secretary-General's recent letter to the Council outlined several options for the 15-member body's consideration, and it also identified several concerns regarding capacity, human rights and the safety and security of United Nations personnel and facilities. He said that the Secretary-General was confident that the Council would carefully consider those issues.

He went on to detail the Secretary-General's recommendations, and the options include: that all logistics support for AFISAM to be provided through bilateral channels; that the United Nations to provide a logistics support package to the mission; or bilateral donors provide logistics support during the combat phase of operations, and the United Nations to provide it during the deployment and stabilization phases of AFISMA's operation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Feltman reported that the start-up team for the establishment of the United Nations multi-disciplinary presence in Mali had arrived in Bamako and renewed contacts with stakeholders to continue discussion on implementation of all aspects of resolution 2085 (2012), including political and security processes.

The head of the United Nations team in Bamako, Joao Honwana, was already on the ground and had begun discussion on a transitional road map, including in reconciliation, with Malian partners. He said that in meetings with Malian authorities, Mr. Honwana had emphasized the need for the political and military tracks to be carried out together, as well as the need for the Malian authorities to adopt a clear vision of what needed to be done, around which the international community could rally.

The Malian Government had expressed full agreement with that view and had informed the United Nations team that it was moving swiftly on an inclusive consultative process with key political actors on the transitional road map.

The Malian Government had also reiterated its desire for a "discrete and light" United Nations presence in Bamako with whom it could frankly exchange and rely on for advice. They had also drawn attention to the need for a broader reconciliation process, which could only be carried out once basic State authority and control had been re-established in the north.

Mr. Feltman said that Special Representative Said Djinnit had also continued to engage national and regional actors to shore up support for implementation of resolution 2085 (2013), having met with President Dioncounda Traore in Bamako on 17 January and having attended the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council meeting in Abidjan on 19 January, among other activities. Mr. Feltman went on to express the United Nations' continuing concern for the well-being of the population in the north of Mali, where malnutrition rates had already been reaching emergency thresholds before the resumption of the conflict.

The few non-governmental organizations still active in that region point to the north's growing isolation, with main supply roads from the south and Algeria now cut off. That situation was increasingly exacerbating existing food and fuel shortages, he said.

Yet, despite such challenges, the United Nations and its partners were working to address the most pressing needs, with the World Food Programme (WFP) distributing food to some 12,000 internally displaced persons in Bamako.

In addition, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) was currently working with civil society partners to provide and distribute aqua-tabs in Gao. As for other concerns, he said the international community feared retribution attacks against civilian Tuareg and Arab populations, as well allegations of child recruitment and the use of sexual violence as a tool of war. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court had announced that it was opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the territory of Mali since January 2012.

"For 10 months now, the world has watched with horror as the people of northern Mali have been subjected to almost unspeakable brutality and the hands of armed extremists and terrorists," he said, adding that friends of the Malian people in the region and beyond had been shocked by the abrupt collapse of constitutional order and the threat to Mali's territorial integrity, which had exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

As stakeholders, including the Council and regional and sub-regional entities had discussed before, the full spectrum of Mali's problems - severe political, security, humanitarian and human rights challenges - needed to be seen in the context of the broader Sahel region.

"We cannot alleviate the crisis in the Sahel without simultaneously improving the situation in Mali that can spill over, and has, in fact, done so, into neighbouring countries," he continued, welcoming the Council's clear, unified message that the military and political tracks must proceed hand in hand with efforts to address the humanitarian and human rights situations.

The Department of Political Affairs fully agreed with the view that ongoing military operations should take place in a framework of a political process that would ensure sustainable peace, stability and national reconciliation. They should likewise provide political space for negotiations between the Government and groups that had renounced violence and distanced themselves from terrorist networks.

"The United Nations will continue to impress upon Malian leaders the need to agree quickly on a road map to restore effectively constitutional order," and he urged others to reinforce that message, for reliance on an exclusively military approach would not allow for the building of a lasting solution for Mali.

The Secretary-General and other senior United Nations officials would be in Addis Ababa over the weekend for the African Union Summit, which would provide opportunities for discussions between the United Nations and its African and international partners on how they could collectively help Mali, he said.

OUMAR DAOU ( Mali) thanked Council members for their solid commitment for Mali "during these difficult days". He reviewed adoption of Council resolution 2085 (2012) earlier this month and the decision to deploy an international African-led force, to be known as AFISMA, to assist the Malian defence forces free the occupied area of their country, controlled by extremist and terrorist groups and their allies.

Those groups continued to defy the international community, whereas the Malian authorities, at the highest levels, had constantly sought a political solution and deployed "unflagging efforts" to achieve peace. Unfortunately, given the jihadist attitudes of the combatants, armed aggression continued along with the further seizure of territory, under a scorched earth policy.

That had inflicted great suffering on the Malian people and caused the President to declare an emergency situation throughout the nation, and who had requested and obtained, under international law, France's military support, to halt the advance of terrorists, not only to Mali, but to other countries in the region.

In that connection, he paid tribute to France and its people and President, who had taken stock of the threat posed by the terrorist groups' southward march and had immediately acted on the Malian President's request, thereby saving the country and restoring hope to the people and army. All in Mali were aware of the gravity of the situation and were determined to make the "ultimate sacrifice to defend their homeland".

Nevertheless, even as the Council met today, he said, combatants continued on various fronts, requiring the Malian army and French forces to continue to advance.

He offered sincere condolences to the valiant combatant who had fallen on the field the first day of the French offensive, and promised his sacrifice for freedom and human rights would not be in vain. He noted the presence of hundreds of displaced persons in the north and south of the country, and in neighbouring countries, and stressed that it was now time to liberate those areas.

Some swaths of land had been "taken back and were now in control of the Malian army, supported by French troops". He congratulated the Council again for its unanimous support of France's action and appealed to the international community as a whole to accelerate AFISMA's deployment.

TETE ANTONIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said that the renewed attacks by armed terrorists and criminal groups in northern Mali earlier this month were a clear manifestation of the "rapidly deteriorating" security situation there, with far-reaching implications not only for the territorial integrity of Mali and the countries of the region, but also for the security of Africa and the world as a whole.

Those developments underscored the urgency of accelerating the deployment of AFISMA, authorized by the Security Council through resolution 2085 (2012), he said.

The situation also reinforced the recommendation made in the report of the Secretary-General that both the international support Mission in Mali and the Malian forces would need the requisite capacities for carrying out operations against terrorist and affiliated groups in northern Mali.

That would require the timely and well-coordinated provision of a significant amount of support by international partners, including general and specialized equipment, logistics and funding.

For its part, the African Union had strongly condemned the renewed attacks by armed terrorist and criminal groups in northern Mali and called upon all African Union member States to extend the necessary logistical, financial and capacity-building support to the Malian Defence and Security Forces, in line with relevant decisions of the African Union Peace and Security Council and United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The Commission of the African Union and the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States held a coordinating meeting in Addis Ababa on 16 January, during which discussions had focused on modalities for expediting the effective implementation of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012); issues of command and control of AFISMA and best practices from recent African Union-led operations; and force generation and funding.

The meeting agreed to set up a Mali Integrated Task Force comprising experts from the African Union, ECOWAS and the United Nations, to source additional troop contributions to AFISMA from other African Union member States, and to hold, on 29 January, a Donors' Conference to mobilize resources and other necessary support for the Malian Defence and Security Forces, as well as for AFISMA.

YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( C ôte d'Ivoire), speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, said that recent events in Algeria had starkly exposed the ongoing "savage" threats posed by terrorists, as well as the need for international solidarity to deal with those threats. That need and call for solidarity to confront terrorism had been echoed by ECOWAS regarding the situation in Mali.

Indeed, he welcomed the substantial involvement of the European Union, as well as the profound assistance of France and other countries in the Maghreb and the Sahel, aimed at repelling terrorists in northern Mali.

He went on to update the Council on recent activities carried out by ECOWAS, including the appointments to AFISMA's military command, as well as the establishment of a joint mechanism to monitor implementation of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012). He said that the ECOWAS presidency had also called, along with the African Union, for the holding of a Donors' Conference that would focus on that Mission's immediate needs.

He welcomed the promises made by countries inside and outsides the ECOWAS collective, to provide troops and equipment. He said that with all the recent announcements and pledges, ECOWAS believed that the expected number of troops could be doubled. However, only 946 had been deployed thus far.

That situation made clear that it was high time to discuss the funding gaps facing AFISMA, and he called on the Council to make a logistical and financial support package available to the Mission, as requested by ECOWAS. Indeed, there was concern that, as presently outfitted, AFISMA would not be able to deploy in a sustained manner much beyond Bamako and a few other areas. He also reiterated ECOWAS' appeal to the Secretary-General to remain personally involved in activities regarding the financing and equipping of AFISMA.

Further in that regard, he urged the Secretary-General to consider chairing the upcoming Donors' Conference, which would heighten international awareness and add urgency to the matter. He also urged all parties to abide by the Security Council's resolution and to participate in the ongoing political process under way in Burkina Faso.

SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said that Mali was a victim of a grave and unacceptable violence against its people. To grasp the "extravagance and ignominious nature" of the "enterprise making its way across the region", he urged all to pay close attention to the many Islamist groups - 10 in number - consorting with full impunity.

It was for that reason that he welcomed France's quick intervention to "stop and neutralize" the jihadist offensive against large areas of the country. While that intervention had allowed Mali to recapture two of its towns, the deployment of African troops would decidedly contribute to hastening the pace of reclaiming the entire north of the country.

It was time to take charge, he declared, noting that AFISMA would be more than 5,000-strong. True to its ideals of regional solidarity, and owing to its ties with Mali, Senegal would deploy a contingent of 500-strong made up of chiefs of staff, an artillery strike capacity, an engine company, and a vehicle company. As part of its contribution to AFISMA, Senegal would take care of nine posts for chief of staff, seven of which were already in Bamako; they were pre-deployed on the ground, in preparation for arrival of the rest.

Since the beginning of the Mali crisis, he said, the Security Council had exhibited a "laudable will" to find solutions. His country welcomed the positive attitude of all members regarding the risks of the terrorist threats and called for enhanced support of African troops engaged in the operation.

The Donors' Conference scheduled for later this month would be a turning point in measuring the international community's determination to combat the terrorist scourge. The gravity of the present situation demanded a reaction to match the threat "hanging over an already unstable region".

The recent hostage-taking in Algeria, he added, was "eloquent testimony" of the "collateral" effect of the current crisis and a warning about the possible consequences of allowing the Sahel to be turned into a new sanctuary for terrorism. Allowed to happen, no country, no region and no continent would be spared.

ALLAM-MI AHMAD (Chad) said that terrorists had wished to catch the international community off guard, gain control of Mali and turn it into a base camp for their operations, which could threaten the entire world. Yet, several countries in the region, including Chad, had often called on the international community to pay head to the threat. Failing to do so had opened the door for terrorists to carry out their deadly activities.

The international community must now act in solidarity, and Chad applauded the "life-saving actions" of French forces as they turned back the forward march of the illegal armed groups. In that same vein, and in line with the Security Council's resolution, his country had decided to send a military battalion to Mali. All factions in Chad had supported that decision.

He applauded the diplomatic support shown to Mali throughout the region and urged that it be continued so that "terrorists, in their desperation, can not exploit any weaknesses".

At the same time, he urged that the international community speedily agree on a logistics package and a package of financial resources to ensure that AFISMA could effectively carry out its duties. International actors were urged to come to Addis Ababa at the end of the month with concrete measures aimed at ensuring the financial and logistic health of AFISMA and other forces working to root out terrorists.

DER KOGDA (Burkina Faso) said that the months-long crisis in Mali had recently taken a dramatic turn for the worse, as armed groups had launched a push for southern areas of the country, despite calls for peace and political dialogue.

The groups that had joined those actions had violated a recent agreement on the cessation of hostilities, and ECOWAS was continuing to try to knit the diverse protagonists together and bring them to the negotiating table peacefully.

Yet, the breakdown of the dialogue had forced the hand of the international community and, in that regard, he welcomed the courageous decision of France to provide prompt support to ensure peace in northern Mali.

With that in mind, he called on the wider international community to act to support France, as well as African countries that had come to Mali's aid. For its part, Burkina Faso had deployed a force that was currently in the country. Burkina Faso would continue to help Mali regain its territory and, once peace was restored, it would continue to support the Malian Government to ensure lasting stability.

BOUBACAR BOUREIMA (Niger) said the situation in Mali "has gone on too long; it should not have happened". For a long time, the international community's eyes had been focused on the threats hovering over the Sahel following the Libyan crisis. The joint assessment of the impact of that crisis, including on other countries in the region, had been exhaustive and had led to appropriate recommendations. Despite everyone's interest in the situation, a peaceful settlement remained elusive and the armed groups quickly consolidated their control of Mali's north.

They must have viewed the United Nations' gradual reaction through its successive resolutions as a signal of a lack of determination to counter their "Machiavellian" intentions and, thus, they dared to go further, seeking ultimately to occupy the entire country.

Were it not for France's prompt action, he wondered what the situation would be today. The entire international community should commend France, which forestalled a situation that would have been very difficult to remedy. It was also necessary to provide support to French and Malian forces.

He said that his country was impacted by the situation in Mali and would participate in AFISMA, whose deputy commander would be from Niger. His country had also increased its initial pledge of 500 troops to 650.

Niger's President had visited the contingent, just prior to its deployment; his support of Mali had been unflagging from the outset. He hoped the solidarity would be evident at the Donors' Conference and in the meeting of the Support and Follow-up Group, to be held in Brussels on 5 February. That would demonstrate the extent of support for Mali.

JEAN-FRANCIS ZINSOU (Benin) said Mali was at a critical juncture, which affected the Sahel region, West Africa, the entire continent and the world as a whole. Since Mali's north fell under the control of fundamentalist groups, the world had witnessed grave human rights violations and the destruction of the country's cultural heritage. The evolution of the situation had made clear the nature of the threats and challenges.

The crisis was undeniably the outcome of the fall of the former Libyan regime and the result of the inflow of outside elements, or terrorist and criminal networks, which were making use of a small group of ethnic minorities. Since 10 January, they had shown themselves to be terrorists and had revealed the true nature of their threat to Mali. They had also attacked vital infrastructure in Algeria and taken hostages there, in retribution for that country's support of Mali. He expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

He said Mali would rise again and the international community must prevent the country from falling under the yolk of terrorists. The country could count on the support of Africa and of West Africa, in particular, whose countries were committed to regional integration and mutual defence.

Nobody thought the free world would let Mali fall into the hands of a transnational criminal network masquerading in different forms.

Benin's President had reiterated his belief that the international community would demonstrate the necessary will to halt the fanaticism and intolerance that fed terrorism and created a haven in Mali. He was grateful to France and urged contingents from all African countries to "bring down the terrorist hydra in the Sahel".

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria), expressing his condolences to the Government and people of Algeria for the recent terrorist attack, said that, as part of the unfolding international effort to free Mali of the threat from terrorist groups and armed militants, Nigeria had commenced the accelerated deployment of 1,200 troops to Mali.

ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had also recently endorsed Nigerian Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir as Force Commander of AFISMA, he said, and the role of President Goodluck Jonathan as an Associate Mediator in Mali was another reflection of Nigeria's deep concern and interest in the security situation in Mali and the region as a whole.

While Nigeria desired a peaceful resolution of all disputes in Mali, he said, in a situation where room for such reconciliation was not allowed or given, regrettably, "the use of force is inevitable and indeed necessary". Such actions were in line with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, and therefore, needed no justification or defending, he said.

The Sahel region and countries such as Mali had been ignored or neglected by the international community for too long, he continued.

"The sufferings of their people and the deteriorating situation were not deemed worthy of the attention of the world until matters became compounded and rather too late to deal with peacefully," he said in that regard. The Secretary-General, however, had consistently drawn attention to the situation in the region and had the foresight to draw up an integrated regional strategy for the Sahel.

Sufficient, accelerated and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance was now desperately needed for the entire region, he stressed, adding that, in the medium and longer terms, structured peacebuilding initiatives, the strengthening of security sector reform and institution-building, including good governance, entrenchment of democratic institutions, human rights and youth empowerment, were direly needed across the region.

Indeed, while the use of force was immediately necessary, it "cannot be an effective long-term strategy or solution", he said.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, said that his delegation condemned all actions that threatened Mali's territorial integrity. The European Union also supported the actions of the region and the wider international community to support Mali.

He welcomed France's swift response to Mali's call for assistance. The European Union also was committed to providing assistance to AFISMA, in close coordination with the African Union and ECOWAS. The bloc was also set to participate in the upcoming Donors' Conference in Addis Ababa. He hoped the Council would soon make a concrete decision on a financing structure for AFISMA.

He went on to say that on 17 January, the European Union had established a Common Security and Defence Policy mission, headed by François Lecointre of France. That official should arrive in Bamako over the next few days, to ensure full deployment of the mission by mid-February.

Meanwhile, the European Union called on the Malian Government to swiftly elaborate a road map, including on reconciliation. All parties to the conflict must be included in any forward-going strategy. Once peace and stability was returned to Mali, the European Union was set to continue its focus on strengthening its development activities in the country.

The European Union would host a ministerial meeting on Mali on 5 February, and would step up support for the efforts of neighbouring countries to maintain stability in the region. He called on all parties to allow unfettered access to populations in need and to respect international humanitarian and human rights law.

He said the European Union also called for specific attention to the situation of children - in and outside war zones. All parties would be held accountable for their actions, he warned. Finally, he pledged the European Union's continued support for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2085 (2012).

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