Foreign Minister Says despite Recent Attacks Agreement Is Imminent
As serious fighting continued among warring armed groups in Mali, resulting in heavy casualties among both civilians and peacekeepers alike, the strife-torn nation’s ongoing peace talks had reached a crucial stage and must move forward, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council this afternoon.
“In such a context, more than ever before, we need to issue an appeal to all parties to put an end to violations of the ceasefire,” said Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, as he briefed the 15-member body on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Mali (document S/2014/943), dated 23 December 2014. It was critical, he added, that all parties show faith on the ground in Mali and around the negotiating table in Algiers.
Also under consideration was the Secretary-General’s letter (document S/2014/944) to the Council President containing a report on operational support provided by French forces to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) from 18 September to 2 December 2014.
The security situation in the country’s north remained “extremely volatile”, thwarting socioeconomic development, human rights and the entry and distribution of much-needed humanitarian aid, Mr. Ladsous went on to say. Threats against MINUSMA’s staff remained very high. Since July 2013, 33 MINUSMA peacekeepers had died and 109 had been injured. In the last few days, peacekeepers had also been attacked on a daily basis, he said, citing incidents against United Nations truck convoys near Gao, as well as in Mampala, a central town along the Mauritanian border.
The Government of Mali and armed groups planned to meet in early February to discuss the terms of a draft peace agreement presented in November, he said. Three rounds of talks held since July 2014 — under the auspices of the Algerian Government, with support from MINUSMA — had led to “fairly modest” progress. However, they had yet to address the root causes of the crisis.
“We don’t want the same causes in the future producing the same effects,” he said, stressing that “for the first time the international community — first and foremost the United Nations — is directly involved and actively committed”. Political will and a decisive spirit was needed to advance the talks and the final peace agreement must include detailed arrangements for implementation.
For its part, MINUSMA had stepped up efforts to implement ceasefire arrangements during the reporting period — 16 September to 16 December — he said. On 16 December, it convened the first meeting of the expanded Mixed Technical Commission on Security. The parties agreed to hold subsequent meetings on the fifteenth of every month and by 16 January to form the Kidal team of the Timbuktu joint observation and verification team set up to monitor compliance with the ceasefire.
The Secretary-General’s report, he said, pointed to steps taken to strengthen the Mission’s operating capacity and address security conditions in the north. MINUSMA would continue to develop ambitious plans to protect against land mines and improvised explosive devices. Additionally, the Mission was in the process of identifying a new Force Commander to replace Jean Bosco Kazura (Rwanda), who had finished his tour of duty in mid-December.
Following Mr. Ladsous’ briefing, Abdoulaye Diop, Mali’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Integration and International Cooperation, told the Council that, despite last week’s deadly attacks in his country, a peace agreement was imminent.
“These are the last hundred paces. We are very close, but we must ensure we cover that last hundred metres and make the sacrifices that we have to make,” Mr. Diop said. Emphasizing that compromises and sacrifices were necessary, he added that an agreement was more than possible, but that all parties would have to continue to work actively towards that end. “If we miss this opportunity at the beginning of 2015, I’m afraid this might spin out of control,” he stated.
Negotiations in Algiers would hopefully result in a peace agreement with armed groups in the north and a restructuring of the country to ensure inclusion of all Malians, he continued. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had committed to such an agreement, as well as to peace, stability, territorial integrity, social cohesion, justice, inclusion and national reconciliation. However, the secular nature of Mali was “non-negotiable”.
At the same time, constant flare-ups of attacks by armed groups against certain communities clearly showed that they wanted to protect certain areas, he noted. Certain allegations in the Secretary-General’s report needed to be verified. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Heads of State of the “G-5 Sahel” [Group of Five for the Sahel] had committed to Mali’s territorial integrity and its unitary nature. To ensure progress, he called on Security Council members to use their influence to lead those armed groups in question to the negotiation process.
But first, the Libyan crisis needed to be addressed, he stressed. As long as that situation was left unresolved, the Malian crisis would be impossible to resolve. Appealing for the Security Council to establish with the African Union a force to neutralize armed groups, help with national reconciliation and to set up stable, democratic institutions in Libyan, he said he hoped the next African Union meeting in Addis Ababa would see progress in that area.
Turning to the spread of the Ebola virus, he paid tribute to the Secretary-General’s personal commitment to fight the scourge. Despite efforts to end the spread of the virus, the threat remained and Mali continued to promote prevention initiatives.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:50 p.m.